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"Brave burglar" judge absent from court
UNDER-FIRE judge Peter Bowers was unexpectedly absent from court yesterday.
As fury grew over his courageous burglar comments, the experienced judge stayed away from work.
He had nine cases listed in his court, but told staff yesterday morning that he would not be going in.
Some officials were told he had called in sick while others say they were told he had other work to do.
His cases were shared among other judges at the 11- court centre in Middlesbrough.
The cases included four plea and case management hearings, which were conducted via a live video-link from the nearby prison, Holme House, in Stockton.
Judge Michael Taylor dealt with the brief hearings from Judge Bowers’ court, then took on more of his work in a different court room.
Among the cases he heard, was an 18-year-old shop robber who was jailed for six-anda- half years for knifepoint raids.
Judge Peter Armstrong and Recorder Tony Hawks dealt with the other matters, which included two burglaries and an assault.
Judge Bowers, 67, is expected to hear a blackmail trial, which is listed to last five days, on Monday. Meanwhile, administration staff at the court have been inundated with phone calls from angry members of the public who want to have their say on the judge’s controversial comments made on Tuesday.
A source said: “The phones haven’t stopped ringing since the story hit the papers and the television.”
Judge Bowers’ comments are to be investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints after he told a serial burglar: “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.”
He predicted that he may be pilloried for deciding to spare Richard Rochford, 26, of Redcar , from jail after hearing how he had become addicted to heroin treatment drug Subutex during a previous spell behind bars.
He followed a pre-sentence report recommendation and imposed a two-year supervision order with drug rehabilitation and 200 hours of unpaid work after hearing Rochford had kicked his drug habit since the burglaries in February.
Rochford, who had admitted two burglaries and asked for one more burglary and an attempted burglary to be taken into consideration, was warned that he faced a 30- month jail sentence if he appeared in court again.