A JUDGE is to be investigated for telling a serial burglar his break-ins “took courage” and sparing him jail.
The Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) has launched an investigation into complaints made against Judge Peter Bowers who sparked an outcry during a case at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday.
Judge Bowers reportedly told an offender who raided three homes in five days: “It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody’s house. I wouldn’t have the nerve.”
Handing 26-year-old Richard Rochford, from Redcar, a suspended 12-month term, he said: “I’m going to take a chance on you.”
The judge added he “might get pilloried” for the decision, but claimed jail would not do much good in this case.
Rochford, who has quit drugs since the February break-ins, was ordered to complete a two-year supervision order with drug rehabilitation and 200 hours’ unpaid work, with a one-year driving ban.
If complaints against Judge Bowers are upheld, the case will be passed to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor, who will consider disciplinary action.
They have the power to advise, warn, reprimand or remove a judge for misconduct.
The judge’s comments came on the day a couple who were arrested after a shooting incident during a burglary at their home were told they will not face criminal charges.
The Crown Prosecution Service said it had made the decision not to take action against Andy and Tracey Ferrie after a senior official visited their home in Welby, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
In a statement released by the CPS, Judith Walker, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East Midlands, said: “Looking at the evidence, it is clear to me that Mr and Mrs Ferrie did what they believed was necessary to protect themselves, and their home, from intruders.”
Mr and Mrs Ferrie were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm after a legally-owned shotgun was fired during a break-in early on Sunday.
The couple had been on bail but Ms Walker confirmed Leicestershire Police had been advised to release them from it.
Meanwhile, Judge Bowers’ remarks sparked a furious response, with Shipley MP Philip Davies raising the issue in the Commons and branding him an “idiot”.
“There has been a great deal of concern about lily-livered judges by many people, not least from me,” he told MPs.
“How can we make sure that idiots like this are no longer in the judiciary and that people who are appointed to the judiciary don’t reflect the views of this particular individual?”
David Cameron, who admitted he had not seen the details of the case, revealed today he had been burgled twice and called it a “hateful crime”.
“I am very clear that burglary is not bravery. Burglary is cowardice,” The Prime Minister added.
“People sometimes say it is not a violent crime, but actually if you have been burgled, you do feel it was violence.
“I am very clear that people who repeatedly burgle should be sent to prison.”
Yorkshire UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, who is standing against Lord Prescott as a candidate for Humberside in the upcoming Police Crime and Commissioner (PCC) elections, called for the judge to stand down.
“It beggars belief that Judge Bowers, who has an inconsistent record on sentencing, is still sitting in judgement in such cases,” he said.
“It takes no courage to burgle a home, it takes courage to say no and seek help. The victims of this man will certainly need courage in the years to come through the trauma and stress they have suffered from someone violating their home. No amount of victim support will assuage this.”
One barrister who works at Teesside Crown Court expressed surprise at Judge Bowers’ remarks.
He tweeted: “I am amazed by this, if true, as he is one of the toughest sentencing judges in Teesside.”
Despite the controversy, Judge Bowers was sitting at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.
He declined to comment further.
A spokesman for the Judiciary of England and Wales stressed that judges are independent to make comments to the court while sentencing.
The case highlighted the need for the public to elect tough Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidates, Victim Support said yesterday.
Chief executive Javed Khan added: “Burglary can be a traumatic experience for victims and leave long lasting scars.
“It is therefore disappointing to see it being taken lightly by anyone - not least someone whose role it is to make sure offenders are brought to justice.
“It is just the latest example showing why the promises Victim Support is asking PCC candidates to make are so important and why the public should vote for victims on November 15.”