Repeat-offender back behind bars

A CRIMINAL who controversially walked free from court after committing stealing �1million in nearly 700 burglaries is back behind bars after admitting yet another attempted raid.

A CRIMINAL who controversially walked free from court after stealing �1million in nearly 700 burglaries is behind bars after admitting attempting yet another raid.

Bradley Wernham, 18, avoided jail last year despite admitting his one-man crime spree and caused widespread anger when he was then given a rent-free flat with his girlfriend after claiming he had reformed.

But this week the teenager was remanded in custody after appearing in court and pleading guilty to attempted burglary on January 5.

Wernham, who lives in Chelmsford, had admitted a string of offences, targeting homes, pubs and even a church, in October which began when he was just 12 years old.

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His offences included stealing two Mercedes cars worth �85,000, an Audi RS4 valued at �50,000, a Porsche Caymen, also worth �50,000, and a �30,000 Land Rover Discovery.

Then living in Harlow, he targeted homes around the town as well as Bishop’s Stortford and Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire.

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When he appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court last year he admitted 20 burglaries but asked for 645 others to be taken into account.

He already had convictions for 26 other offences under his belt, bringing the total to 691 crimes.

Judge Christopher Ball QC decided to give him a second chance because he believed the teenager needed a fresh start, saying short-prison sentences had not worked for Wernham. He was moved to Chelmsford after Essex Police pledged to provide rented accommodation for him and visit him twice a week. Wernham moved into the flat with girlfriend Sophie Hatfield and was ordered to do 150 hours of community service and obey a six-month overnight curfew order from 11pm to 6am.

Judge Ball, who lives a few miles from where Wernham waged his one-man crimewave, said at his sentencing: “You are beginning to grow up and seem to be determined to stop [offending] and, because you assisted the police so much over a long period of time, I am prepared to deal with this in a wholly exceptional way.”

But his victims were outraged by what they saw as a ‘slap on the wrist’.

One, Tim Marsland, 38, an engineer who had his Kawasaki ZX6R bike worth �2,500 and a helmet, boots and motorcycle equipment, stolen by Wernham, branded the sentence ‘ridiculous’.

He said: “What can I say, it’s the justice system. If you don’t get locked up for 700 burglaries what do you have to do? It’s totally ridiculous.

“Stealing my motorbike wasn’t a big deal, it’s not too personal for me but 700 burglaries, breaking into people’s houses, that has affected more than 700 people’s lives.

“I am amazed the police have spoken up for him and given him a house.

“Reformed or not he should be punished. The crimes don’t go that far back. He’s gone from being one of the most prolific burglars in Britain to being a reformed character, a saint, in just a few months – that doesn’t ring true to me.’’

Wernham was back at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday where he admitted a charge of attempted house burglary in Witham on January 5.

He denied a count of causing �100 of criminal damage to a window on the same occasion, which was ordered to lie on file. He was remanded in custody until he is sentenced on April 20 while pre-sentence reports are prepared.

Simon Burns, the MP for West Chelmsford, who criticised the judge’s original decision to allow Wernham to walk free, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” at this week’s development.

He said: “At the time Mr Bradley Wernham was given what I consider a ludicrously light sentence by the judge for his crimes, which lead to him living in a secret location in Chelmsford. It comes as little surprise to me that he has now admitted another attempted burglary and has been remanded in custody awaiting sentence.

“I am sure the judge who originally sentenced him will be bitterly disappointed that his optimism has not been rewarded.

“Many other people will just feel vindicated because they believed that the sentence imposed on Mr Wernham to begin with was a mere slap on the wrist when he should have had a custodial sentence given the literally hundreds of offences he asked to be taken into account.”

A police spokeswoman said: “Essex Police do not wish to comment until after sentencing.”

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