Criminals walk free as judge slams 'gross delays' in police investigations
PUBLISHED: 18:10 15 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:01 16 August 2019
A burglar and a thief have escaped jail as a judge called delays in police investigations an "utter disgrace".
Just nine days after a burglary at the Swan Inn, Long Stratton, in November 2017, police found Wayne Tappin's DNA on a glove left at the scene.
But his case was not passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for 15 months.
Judge Katharine Moore suspended Tappin's prison sentence after hearing he had "turned his life around" in that time.
In an unrelated case, Matthew Smith admitted to his employers he had stolen £30,000 worth of stock in summer of last year.
But police failed to pass the case file to the CPS until May, despite having interviewed Smith in November, Norwich Crown Court heard.
"At first I thought it would be inevitable you go to prison, but because of the gross delay in coming to court I am minded to suspend the sentence here," Judge Moore told Smith.
Tappin, 38, had been part of a gang who broke into the Swan while landlord Dave Hipperson slept upstairs.
They had ransacked the pub, stole the till and smashed bottles. They tried to break into the accommodation upstairs but failed.
Losses were filed at £800 in damages and £550 in cash and stock stolen.
Matthew Morgan, mitigating, said Tappin "wants to make recompense" and is now working.
"He has set to distance himself from those he was associating with at the time of this offence," said Mr Morgan.
"I would question whether he is someone who really does need to be locked up. He has said that is just going to put him back around people he is trying to get away from."
Judge Moore criticised the delay in police bringing Tappin to court as "utterly inexplicable and inexcusable".
"A forensic link was made by the police within a matter of days," she said.
"The forensic DNA report is dated November 10, 2017, nine days after the offence, saying there is a match. In November 2017 there was a case for this man to answer.
"The police, as it were, sat on all that for 15 months. Frankly that is utterly inexplicable and inexcusable. There is a victim living in fear and a defendant awaiting his future while the evidence is in.
"The CPS was contacted 15 months after police had evidence linking this defendant to the crime. It was left for month after month after month and it is now August 2019. It is an utter disgrace."
Prosecutor Martin Ivory told the court the CPS was not asked for a charging decision until February 6.
"I can't speak to what happened before that," he said. "On the face of it all the material was there. I don't understand why it took so long to reach us."
Mr Hipperson, who has run the pub for the past 20 years, said he still suffers with an "ongoing trauma" from the incident.
He said: "It affected me in that before I go to bed, there is not a night that I don't think about what happened."
He added he was "more than satisfied" with the police investigation.
Judge Moore told Tappin: "For reasons I am utterly unable to comprehend you were not prosecuted as you could and should have been in 2017 - or in 2018.
"That is to the victim's detriment, your detriment, and everyone else.
"Given the passage of time I am able to judge for myself whether you have sought to put offending behind you.
"You have demonstrated yourself to be conscientious, reliable and trustworthy.
"I am obliged, where someone has demonstrated they have put their criminal behaviour behind them, to ask myself whether a custodial sentence can properly be suspended."
Tappin, of Wellesely Road, Clacton, admitted burglary and attempted burglary and was given a 22 month sentence suspended for 21 months.
He was also ordered to pay £1,350 in compensation and £450 costs, in addition to carrying out 180 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation days.
Matthew Smith had been employed by Uttings Ltd - a Norwich based online retailer - from November 2011 to August 2018.
It specialises in "outdoor market items" such as camping gear and fishing tackle.
In June 2016, Smith, 40, was promoted to sales manager.
"He was given full access and permissions to all areas of the computer system so he was able to audit and manage the business dealings of the company," said Martin Ivory, prosecuting at Norwich Crown Court.
In the summer of 2018 Smith went on holiday, when staff noticed some "activity in stock levels and the orders ledger".
Smith has been logging on to the system while on holiday, which raised suspicions, the court heard.
"When they looked more closely it became clear there were significant numbers of items that had gone missing, and there had been a degree of covering up and manipulation of the stock records," said Mr Ivory
Smith was confronted by his employer in summer of last year and admitted he had taken the stock to sell on Gumtree, even ticking off a list the items he had taken.
He made further admissions to the police in interview in November, but was not prosecuted until May.
Andrew Oliver, for Smith, said he had got into "financial difficulties", and currently owes around £50,000.
"It is a mean-spirited offence because his employer put trust in him," Mr Oliver said.
"He hasn't fronted up to the problems he was facing. He seems to have been at a crisis point in his life.
"Undoubtedly prison would be merited and deserved given the offending."
Judge Moore told Smith: "Given you were making admissions to a really serious offence, [the delay in coming to court] is really quite remarkable.
"You were much quicker off the mark than the police were, and even when you admitted it to them, they didn't do anything during that period of time.
"I simply can't ignore the fact that during that time you have done all that is required of you."
She added if he lost his job by going to prison he would be less able to repay his victim.
Smith, of Heartsease Lane, Norwich, admitted theft and was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for 21 months.
He was also given a curfew from 8.30pm to 7am and ordered to carry out 20 rehabilitation days.