Outrage as Chorley burglar who left pensioners traumatised "effectively escapes" punishment due to bizarre sentencing rules
A judge has urged Parliament to reconsider Sentencing Act rules after a notorious burglar who targets the elderly effectively will not serve extra jail time for stealing from two Chorley pensioners.
Basia Chapman, 43, of St George's Court, Chorley, was jailed for four years and 10 months after targeting frail victims during the pandemic, one of whom now has to keep her walking stick next to her for protection.
But frustrating sentencing guidelines that mean a court is not allowed to order a new jail term to commence on the expiry of a current prison sentence the offender is being released from - so they have to serve it alongside their current term.
It means the new term imposed will be "swallowed up" by the remaining licence period of five years that she is serving on recall to jail for a previous 10 year jail term imposed in 2016 for offences against the elderly in Bradford.
Judge Andrew Jefferies QC, sitting at Lancaster's Ashton Hall, remarked that, effectively, Chapman had not received any additional punishment as a result.
He added: " Had I the power to, I would have made the sentences follow on from the sentence you are already serving.
"This is an area of sentencing that Parliament may want to reconsider in regard to the sentencing code."
Chapman befriended her first victim, a 77-year-old man, while working as a cleaner at Morrisons in Chorley in May 2020, following her prison release four months earlier, and she was still on licence.
Even when she was arrested for the theft she was not remanded or recalled on licence at first, leaving her free to go on to burgle a disabled 76-year-old woman.
It was the mum-of-one's third burglary offence, meaning she is subject to minimum sentencing provisions.
Prosecuting, Neil Fryman said the first victim, who lived alone in supported accommodation, contacted police stating that a female he knew as ‘B’ had taken £160 and a bank card from his wallet whilst at his home.
He said: "She visited his flat at approximately 5pm.
"Whilst there she entered his bedroom whilst he was in the kitchen making them coffee and she shut the door behind her.
"When he came back to the lounge she was there. They then sat together for a while before she left for work at 5.40pm.
" After she'd gone he went into his bedroom and checked his wallet which he states he always keeps in his drawer and noticed that £160 and a bank card was missing.
" Earlier on in the day he had put £180 in his wallet and spent £20 when he went shopping.
"Whilst police were at the address, his friend, Lisa Crawford rang. She was aware of the theft and had contacted Morrisons in order to find out who ‘B’ was.
She was informed that ‘B’ was Basia Chapman. Morrisons confirmed to Ms Crawford that there was CCTV available from May 28, 2020, which shows her in conversation with the pensioner.
"Ms Crawford has also spoken to the manager of the sheltered accommodation who also confirmed that they too had CCTV of a female fitting the description of the defendant entering and leaving the building at the time the theft is believed to have occurred."
Chapman was arrested and interviewed and denied the offence.
In a harrowing victim statement, the pensioner said the incident had forced him to move to new accommodation, away from his friends, and costing him four times as much.
He said the first time he went out a week after the attack he was so anxious he collapsed, and has not been out since.
Mr Fryman said: " He misses his old life, he misses his old accommodation and his ability to nip into town to see his friends."
While on bail, Chapman burgled a 76-year-old partially blind woman with a brain injury, on January 20 this year, stealing irreplaceable items of jewellery, including a signet ring her mother had given to her when she was aged 10.
Mr Fryman said: "She had previously had two heart attacks and some brain injury. She hadn’t left her flat since October 2020.
"She is blind in one eye and had an operation to save her sight in the other eye.
"Her address is a downstairs flat where she lives alone.
"Shortly after 3 pm she heard some noises, which initially she thought were coming from the resident in the upstairs flat, and she had a feeling at that stage that someone was behind her.
"She quickly got up from her armchair and saw the defendant, who was completely unknown to her, inside her flat, crouching behind her armchair.
"She asked the defendant why she was in her flat, to which the defendant stated she was looking for someone called Jean.
"She told her there was no one called Jean who lived in the flat and told the defendant to leave. She had to repeat herself on more than one occasion to get the defendant out of her flat.
"The defendant left and due to the victim not thinking something was right, she went into her bedroom. She realised four red boxes of jewellery had been stolen containing
jewellery in her bedroom."
The gold jewellery - two pairs of pearl drop earrings, two long black and gold earrings, a pair or red earrings with gold print in the middle, a pair of gold hooped earrings with a cross, and a small wishbone signet ring - was worth several hundred pounds.
The defendant was identified on CCTV and the elderly lady's crucifix was found in her purse and other jewellery in her home.
The victim, who started to become blind at 33, while working for the fire service, requested her emotional statement was read in court in which she said: "I would like the court to know this incident has affected me greatly.
"To start with I feel unsafe in my own home. I've had to move my armchair as I'm scared to have my back to the door.
"I moved my bed as I know she searched through it."
She said she was in extreme pain, had been shocked and scared, and was worried about catching Covid from Chapman as she hadn't been vaccinated at the time.
She added: " In all my 76 years I have never been burgled. I have never felt like this before in my whole life."
She was also devastated to learn her jewellery had been sold by Chapman to a second hand shop in Chorley for just £30.
Defending, Katie Jones said: "This is a woman who has committed the vast majority of previous convictions whilst under the influence of drugs.
"She's had a long standing drug addiction since the age of 11. She does very much struggle to stay drug free whilst in the community. She recognises she has become somewhat institutionalised."
She said she was a very religious lady who recognised she needed to address her drug use.
Judge Jefferies QC said: "You have an appalling record of offending.
"Many concern theft from vulnerable elderly victims.
"You have now at last been recalled for breaching the terms of your licence by committing these further offences.
"The sentence you are currently serving does not expire until 2025.
"Under section 225 of the Sentencing Code a court sentencing a person to a relevant custodial term may not order it to commence on the expiry of any current custodial sentence from which the offender has been released.
"In other words I cannot direct the sentence for these to be served after the expiry of your current sentence.
"The effect of the sentence I pass today is therefore that it begins to be served today, it runs concurrently to the term for which you have been recalled and therefore you will effectively receive no additional punishment for these two offences."
The judge would have had to impose a jail term of at least 10 years - which would have been deemed too excessive in legal terms - in order for her to have served more time in jail.
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