Leeds judge says year-long delay before Wakefield burglar charged is 'unacceptable'
A Leeds Crown Court judge said the public will be "horrified" to learn that a heavily convicted burglar caught on CCTV raiding a retirement housing complex in Wakefield was not charged until a year after his arrest.
The court heard a still image of drug addict Stephen Emmerson's face was caught on camera when he stole a desktop computer from a communal area at New Wells housing complex on April 6 2018.
Prosecutor, Catherine Moxon, said Emmerson, 52, pulled the £550 computer free from a padlock securing it to a wall before putting it in a shopping bag and walking out of the building.
Police arrested and interviewed Emmerson on May 24 2018, but he was not charged with non-dwelling burglary at the Thornhill Street retirement complex for people aged over 55 until May 19 2019.
In the meantime, Emmerson was jailed for another offence on November 29 2018 and was released from that sentence on January 25 2019.
Emmerson, of Falcon Drive, Castleford, denied the Wakefield burglary, but was convicted by a Leeds Crown Court jury after a trial.
Judge Geoffrey Marson QC told the court: "He was charged, wholly, wholly unjustifiably a year later and it's a common feature with which these courts are having to deal and it's unacceptable.
"I know cutbacks are an issue, but the public will be horrified to learn that someone easily identified and arrested within a month isn't charged for a year."
The court heard Emmerson has 82 previous convctions for 146 offences, including 105 for theft and related offences, 11 house burglaries and 15 non-dwelling burglaries.
A probation officer told the court Emmerson started using drugs aged 27, suffers from depression and had no recollection of the Wakefield burglary.
Michael Greenhalgh, mitigating said Emmerson continues to deny the burglary.
Mr Greenhalgh said: "He has obviously had an acquisitive lifestyle to support a drug addiction. He has taken steps to address that addiction in terms of a methadone prescription."
Judge Marson said Emmerson has a "dreadful" criminal record, adding: "This was a mean offence. You were arrested on May 24 2018, you were interviewed shortly thereafter having been clearly identified from CCTV.
"It is a matter of significant concern to me that you weren't charged for a whole year. That is no doubt down to resources, but it's a wholly unacceptable state of affairs."
Judge Marson sentenced Emmerson to a 12-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered him to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days.
Emmerson was also made the subject of a six month 6pm to 6am electronically tagged curfew order.