Burglar stole tamper-proof laptops designed to help reform prisoners

Peter Usher appeared at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Tuesday Picture: ARCHANT

Peter Usher appeared at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Tuesday Picture: ARCHANT

A Suffolk burglar stole 20 laptops from a firm providing digital learning to prison inmates.

Jason Spearman stole the secure Chromebook devices during one of three burglaries in Newmarket.

The 46-year-old also took charity boxes, cash and two dresses from a florist, before ruining thousands of pounds worth of stock while burgling a butcher the next night.

Spearman, of Silhalls Close, Ashley, Newmarket, admitted the burglaries at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

The first was discovered on June 16 at Coracle Online, where Spearman had broken in through a kitchen window and stolen the 20 Chromebooks, leaving the place in disarray and causing a loss to the business estimated in the thousands.

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On July 17, the owner of Bouquets of Newmarket found a back door damaged, paperwork on the floor and six charity boxes, £75 in cash and two dresses worth £100 missing.

The next morning, the assistant manager of Powters noticed cash tills removed, before discovering someone had stolen two laptops, meat and caused thousands of pounds worth of contamination damage in a meat production unit at the back of the building.

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Spearman, who was jailed for five years in 2011 for seven burglaries, admitted the latest break-ins when interviewed by police, telling them he needed the money to feed a drug habit.

Mark Thompson, representing Spearman, said: "He has been a drug addict for about 20 years and can't seem to break the cycle.

"He is trying to sort his life out and I would ask that options available for sentencing include some kind of rehabilitation."

Magistrates remanded Spearman in custody until a sentencing hearing on August 15.

The Chromebooks he stole were securely synced to a cloud-based server, allowing learning material and courses to be updated, monitored, assessed and accredited for prison inmates.

Coracle Inside provides participating prisons, including HMP Warren Hill, near Woodbridge, with fully-locked down Chromebooks.

James Tweed, head of Coracle Inside, part of Coracle Online, a partner of the Learning Together Consortium, led by University of Cambridge, said: "The theft of 20 of our Coracle Inside Chromebooks, destined for use by inmates in prison, was a blow to the business as it looks like only one laptop will be recovered."

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