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Thief let off rest of unpaid work

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 22, 2012

A THIEF has been let off the last 70 hours of unpaid work in the community after complaining it was costing him £15 a time to drive to the jobs.

Michael Roberts was thrown off the community work programme because he got so angry at only being offered a couple of hours at each session that he lost his temper with organisers.

He swore at a rector while working at his church and racially abused a receptionist at the probation service.

He also lost his temper with probation staff when they refused to accept that becoming a new father and being at hospital with his partner were not valid excuses.

He was spared further punishment when a judge revoked the final 70 hours of his community order after hearing he has stayed out of trouble and completed a three-month curfew.

Roberts, 28, of Sandford Way, Dolton, admitted the theft of a £3,000 steel girder from a Devon County Council depot when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court in March. He was jailed for 24 weeks, suspended for two years, curfewed for three months, and ordered to do 220 hours unpaid work.

He was taken back to court by the probation service after being thrown off the community work because of a complaint by rector the Rev Iain Robertson that he became abusive while employed at St Augustine's at Heanton Punchardon.

Judge Erik Salomonsen was also told there was a technical error in his original sentence which rendered it illegal.

He revoked the community order but told Roberts the suspended sentence must remain in force.

He said: "I bear in mind you have kept your nose clean and completed the curfew order and 150 hours' unpaid work."

Roberts told the judge he had wanted to complete his unpaid work but been thwarted by red tape.

He said: "I was willing to do the community service but I phoned up two days after I had a baby and told them I was still in hospital with my partner and they said it was not a good enough reason.

"That was what got me enraged. I would have finished the order months ago if they had given me eight hours' work every time I turned up.

"I had to drive 18 miles in and 18 miles back and it was costing me £15 a time to fill up the car but when I got there they would say it was raining or they only had one or two hours' work for me.

Greg Richardson, for the prosecution, told an earlier hearing the probation service did not want to work with Roberts because of a series of confrontations.

He said:"His aggressive behaviour has escalated and in particular there was an incident in September when the work party was decorating a church.

"It was recorded that Roberts was rude, threatening and abusive to the rector. The probation service also received an e-mail from the rector withdrawing from the work scheme in which he complained of the incident."

The e-mail said:"One of the lads working at the time was rude and threatening and abusive to me and to my role. It was completely out of order."

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