A former Lancashire mayor who was jailed for sneaking into bedrooms to steal and violate women’s underwear has had his sentence halved on appeal.
Church-going Ian Stafford, 59, was the mayor of Preesall when he was caught naked from the waist down on a security camera set up in the bedroom of one of his victims.
A part-time handyman and gardener, he had been employed for years by some of his victims who trusted him with the keys to their homes.
Stafford, of Sandicroft Place, Preesall, pleaded guilty to three counts of burglary with a further account taken into consideration and in January he was jailed for two years.
The court had heard the victims were “embarrassed, disgusted and shocked” to discover how the man they trusted was getting his “sexual kicks”.
But at the Criminal Court of Appeal in London on Tuesday, Stafford’s lawyers argued the sentence was excessive, given his previous good character and the low chance of him re-offending.
Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sitting with Lord Justice Pill and Mr Justice Foskett, told the court Stafford was caught last June after working as a gardener for a woman and her husband since 2004.
“He had gained their trust and was permitted to be in their house when they were absent,” the judge said.
“But they began to notice underwear was going missing and set up a CCTV camera.”
Stafford was left alone one day last June and was caught on CCTV naked from the waist down “grabbing two handfuls of underwear” from a drawer.
The judge said: “The police searched his home and found a large amount of ladies’ underwear.
“He admitted the theft of underwear had been going on for some 12 months.”
Barrister Richard Haworth argued that Stafford’s two-year sentence was “manifestly excessive.”
He said: “Mr Stafford was of good character with impeccable references.
“A petition of nearly 400 signatures was raised by villagers supporting him and his release.”
Mrs Justice Davies said the panel had decided to halve Stafford’s prison sentence, to a year.
She said: “Mr Stafford is remorseful and will forever be ashamed of what occurred.
“That in itself is a real punishment for a man of hitherto good character. The passing of a custodial sentence was appropriate.
“However, taking into account the low risk of re-offending, the peculiar nature of the offence and the appellant’s remorse we are of the view that the sentence was manifestly excessive. We replace it with a sentence of one year in custody.”