Preston criminal who breached order by visiting ex on birthday during pandemic is jailed

A convicted burglar who flouted a restraining order during the coronavirus restrictions on home visitors has been jailed for six months.

John Butler, 41, attended an address in Ribbleton, Preston, on his ex partner's birthday on June 3, Preston Crown Court was told, while he was also subject to a suspended jail sentence made in 2018 for a burglary.

Judge Sara Dodd said only an immediate prison term was appropriate on account of his previous offending and order breaches.

After the sentence was passed she agreed to an application by the woman to lift the restraining order, but warned: "You understand that if I revoke this restraining order there won't be protection in place for you?"

Preston Crown Court

"I hope your confidence in Mr Butler is well founded."

Butler appeared by video link from prison.

Prosecuting, David Clarke said: " At around 9.30pm a number of police officers were being made aware of reports of a domestic type incident taking place.

"On their arrival they were met at the front door by the woman who said her former partner had simply walked in despite an existing restraining order.

"The police searched the address and he was found hiding in a bedroom cupboard. He was completely co-operative with them and despite requests from police she would not provide a witness statement.

"The defendant admitted the offence, admitting he breached it because he loved this lady and it was her birthday and he maintained she had organised the meet up to help celebrate her birthday.

"He denied having any argument before the arrival of the police, but seemingly someone had contacted the police because of raised voices."

A restraining order is used by a court to protect a person, business, company, establishment, or entity, in a situation involving alleged domestic violence, child abuse, assault, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault.

Butler, who has 31 convictions for 72 offences, was given a three year order in December after an incident involving a knife, and has already served six weeks for breaching it in January

Halfway through the hearing his partner attended court to ask for the order to be revoked and gave evidence in which she said she had 'agreed to it'.

Defending, Beverley Hackett said: " The relationship between him and his partner, whether she continues to be his partner or his ex partner, has always been fraught with difficulties.

"If i can say from a balance of fairness clearly he's appeared before the court for that, but in equal measure the defendant has exercised her right to see him in circumstances where he should have been brave enough to say no."

Judge Dodd said immediate custody was necessary, adding: " It is not the first time you have been in breach of that restraining order.

"There are a number of aggravating features, your previous offending generally, your previous breaches of orders generally.

"This is an offence committed during the coronavirus pandemic when there are restrictions of the movement of households. "