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Middlesbrough car thief shown leniency after trio of tragedies
A CAR crook was shown leniency after a judge heard how his life had been rocked by three tragedies in the space of just 18 months.
Stephen Harker, 26, was today(OCT 23) told he would have been locked up for “much longer” had he not suffered the traumatic losses.
The motoring menace was jailed for nine months for crashing a stolen car into a shop while three times over the legal drink-drive limit.
Teesside Crown Court heard how jobless Harker started drinking heavily after his grandfather, brother and girlfriend all died suddenly.
Duncan McReddie, mitigating, said his brother committed suicide while his partner fell off a drainpipe as she tried to get into their home.
Judge Tony Briggs told Harker, from Middlesbrough: “I have no doubt the personal tragedies is cause for a considerable degree of sympathy.
“But your record indicates well before these particular tragedies you were behaving badly in respect of vehicles on a number of occasions.
“Custody is inevitable, but I do bear in mind the fact you pleaded guilty and it is said a change has come over you.
“I hope for your sake that that is permanent . . . but for your personal mitigation, this sentence would have been much longer.”
The court heard how police chased Harker through streets near Middlesbrough town centre until he crashed into the shop on July 3.
The banned driver fled from the scene, but was cornered as he tried to escape over a fence, prosecutor Jenny Haigh told Judge Briggs.
Miss Haigh revealed how Harker has 39 offences on his record, including a number of previous car crimes such as driving while disqualified.
Mr McReddie said Harker's girlfriend was killed when the drainpipe snapped as she tried to get into their home after losing a door key.
“This series of events had a marked effect on him and he acknowledges that he descended into what can only be described as very heavy drinking.
“Mr Harker has had a considerable period to reflect on his behaviour and recognises fully that change has got to come,” said Mr McReddie.
“The tragedies with his family brought him up short. He is now sober.”
Harker, of Bowley Walk, admitted aggravated vehicle taking, driving while disqualified, having no insurance and excess alcohol.