Sometimes, a case comes around where you know just by looking at the headlines that someone is going to get clobbered. Such was the case when Conor Aldous was sent to prison on 26th March 2014 for ten months after pleading guilty to theft.
Mr Aldous was acting as the carer for Alex Stringer, who had lost both arms and a leg in Afghanistan is 2011. They had known each other from school. Mr Stringer got married in 2012 and Mr Aldous was the best man. In this period, Mr Aldous had access to Mr Stringer’s bank accounts and used this to steal about £2,500. It seems that Mr Aldous was heavily in debt at the time.
We don’t have the sentencing remarks, but the news reports state that the Judge called it a ‘mean offence’ and noted that it was a breach of trust and that Mr Stringer was vulnerable. The starting point is (as always) the Sentencing Guidelines (page 11).
Here it is a high degree of trust given the circumstances. The value of £2,500 just puts it in second column with a starting point of 2 years with a range of 1-3 years. We know that Mr Aldous pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court and therefore gets the full discount.
We would have thought that the appropriate sentence would have taken a starting point of 1 year (being right at the bottom of the bracket) and increase it slightly because of the amount, and by more for the background circumstances.
This would give a sentence of about 15 months, which is exactly what he did receive (after taking account of the guilty plan). He could have probably got a little bit more, but not much, without an appeal.
Whilst there would normally be careful consideration to suspending a sentence of that length, it is here where the circumstances of the offending comes to the fore. The Judge would have been likely to have thought that a message of clear punishment needed to be sent out, and for that reason the sentence could not be suspended.