Judge reprimanded for telling burglar it takes 'courage' to break into homes

FREED BURGLAR: Judge Peter Bowers

FREED BURGLAR: Judge Peter Bowers

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

A JUDGE who said burglars have a "huge amount of courage" to break into people’s homes has been given an official reprimand, the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) said.

Judge Peter Bowers admitted he might be pilloried when he spared the burglar jail at Teesside Crown Court in September.

The case caused an outcry, with Prime Minister David Cameron commenting that burglars were not brave but cowards and their crimes were hateful.

Following an investigation, the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have upheld complaints about the judge’s comments and issued him with a reprimand after his remarks damaged public confidence in the judicial process, the OJC said.

They believed the use of the word courage was a serious error of judgment and offensive to those who have been victims of a burglary, according to a letter from the OJC to one of the complainants.

Judge Bowers told an offender who raided three homes in five days: “It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody’s house. I wouldn’t have the nerve.”

Handing 26-year-old Richard Rochford, from Redcar, a suspended 12-month term, the judge said: "I'm going to take a chance on you, an extraordinary chance, one which I don't often take."

After acknowledging the trauma burglary victims face, the judge explained he would not jail Rochford, who had quit drugs since the February break-ins.

He was given a two-year supervision order with drug rehabilitation and 200 hours unpaid work, with a one-year driving ban.

Following the decision to reprimand the judge, the OJC said: “Whilst His Honour Judge (HHJ) Bowers regrets his use of the word courage the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice believe that this was a serious error of judgment and offensive to those who have been victims of a burglary.

“They also believe that HHJ Bowers conduct has been damaging to the respect of the judicial process. For this reason, HHJ Bowers has been issued with a formal reprimand.”

Announcing the decision, an OJC spokesman said: “His Honour Judge Peter Bowers has been issued with a reprimand following complaints about remarks he made during his sentencing of a burglar at Teesside Crown Court.

“The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice considered his comments to have damaged public confidence in the judicial process.”

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