Devon judge says burglar 'got away' with theft

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A burglar has been told he "got away with" stealing from a woman's home by a judge in Devon who released him because of an earlier decision by magistrates.

Jason Hart, 28, from Exeter, admitted stealing about £5,000 worth of goods from a house in the city last November.

At Exeter Crown Court, Graham Cottle said Hart's complying with a community order from magistrates prevented him from jailing Hart immediately.

Judge Cottle said the victim of the burglary would be "outraged".

'No sense'

Hart admitted ransacking 58-year-old Theresa Newberry's Exeter home as he stole goods to feed his drugs habit.

The judge said his hands were tied from issuing an immediate custodial sentence because Hart had been complying to a community order from Exeter magistrates since February.

That was in connection with a burglary in November he admitted, while asking for other offences to be taken into consideration.

In court, the judge said the magistrates decision "makes no sense to me whatsoever".

Judge Cottle told Hart: "I sentence you with my hands tied very firmly behind my back," adding that had he been free to sentence him without the restriction imposed by the lower court, he would have jailed him for 18 months.

He imposed a two-year supervision order with a drug-related requirement and told Hart: "You are, today, getting away with it."

Hart will face Judge Cottle again for a monthly drugs review.

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