Is justice being served for burglary victims?

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Shaun Williams and his family were subjected to a terrifying burglary two years ago while they were alseep upstairs.

He was landlord of The Hatton Arms pub in Gretton at the time and his wife was woken by the sound of the burglars downstairs in the bar.

He said: “My wife, who was six-months pregnant at the time, heard a glass smash. We sneaked out of bed and we could hear them talking, laughing and smashing things downstairs.

“I locked my wife and my step-daughter, who was about five or six, in the back bedroom and I stood at the top of the stairs with a fire extinguisher while I phoned the police.

“They were not the cleverest criminals. They took the till without the till drawer containing all the money and they were drinking all the spirits. They were both out of their faces, the next day they couldn’t even remember being there.

“It seemed like forever but it was probably only about 15 minutes before the police got there. A woman from the police call centre stayed on the phone with me the whole time.

“I had a big butcher’s knife in the kitchen and one of them had that down his trousers when he was arrested. God knows what would have happened if I’d gone downstairs and confronted them.

“The police were fantastic. They rang us to let us know they were going to court and when they pleaded guilty the court phoned us to see if we had lost any money through the break in.

“It was only the window, the frame and the glasses they smashed that we lost.

“Our staff were really good and had gone out and bought new locks which they came in with the next day. But we gave up the pub because of it and we moved out a few weeks later.”

Shaun, 36, who is now a chef, says the events of that night will always stay with him.

He said: “My wife was in tears and I was shaking like a leaf. I can still hear it all happening. I clearly remember the police shouting in to them ‘police dogs!’, although they didn’t actually have any dogs.

“Even now, every time I hear a noise I think about it. Our front door is always locked and so is the back door, even when we just let the dog out for a few minutes.

“It’s something you don’t forget.”

This was the second time Shaun has been the victim of a burglary.

Ten years ago while he was living in Nottingham his house was burgled on Christmas Day while he was enjoying Christmas dinner at his mum’s house.

They came home to find the tree had been thrown across the room and many of their presents had been stolen, including his daughter’s new stereo.

He says the police response that time was disappointing.

“We found out a couple of weeks later who had done it, these people living in a house behind ours. A friend of ours had been at their house and saw our stereo in their living room.

“Instead of going round ourselves, we told the police but they said it was circumstantial evidence and they couldn’t go round.”

There were 5,861 burglaries in Northamptonshire in the 12 months between September 2010 and September 2011. This equates to nine break-ins for every 1,000 people.

The number of burglaries is falling, down 14 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Of the total number of burglaries, 2,444 were house burglaries, down 21 per cent on the previous year.

Last week new sentencing guidelines on burglary were introduced with the impact of the crime on the victim being key to determining the punishment.

Offences will be considered more serious and carry a harsher penalty if the victim is at home when the break-in took place or if the burglar uses or threatens to use violence.

Armed burglars can now face up to 13 years in jail, while a non-domestic burglary, such as a business, could be punishable with a fine if there are factors indicating ‘lower culpability’. These might include no forced entry and goods of low value being stolen.

Lord Justice Leveson, chairman of the Sentencing Council for England and Wales, said: “We do not recommend every single burglar in every circumstance should go to jail.

“We advise, consistent with the law, that judges should consider harm and culpability: greater harm and greater culpability always jail, but lesser harm and lesser culpability, not necessarily.

“The crime of burglary is not simply a crime against property, it is a crime against the person.”