A FORMER soldier was caught on tape promising to drop the charges against a thief who stole from him – if he was given cash.
Barry Atkinson, 20, said he wanted £1,500 in exchange for witness statements against Gary Tiffin being withdrawn.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Tiffin, who is Atkinson’s cousin, taped the illegal offer on his iPhone and gave the recording of the conversation to the police.
Atkinson had drafted in pal, Stephen Alderson, 23, who was also captured on the recording backing up the offer made by Atkinson.
Both men yesterday pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.
Mark Guiliani, prosecuting, told the court: “Mr Tiffin went to the police. Both defendants were spoken to and said Tiffin was lying.
“However, Mr Tiffin was in possession of an iPhone and one of the features is the ability to record conversations.
“Mr Tiffin was aware of this and, when he was rung by the defendants again, set the iPhone up to record the conversation.
“During the course of the conversation, which he then took to the police, it was clear both defendants spoke to him.”
The court heard Tiffin was told he had the men’s word that the case would be dropped if he paid up.
Tiffin was originally accused of burgling Atkinson’s home but was later given a community order with unpaid work for theft and criminal damage.
Tim Gittens, defending, said no threats were issued during the conversation and Atkinson, whose partner had a baby at the weekend, was only interested in being compensated for what he lost and no more.
Mr Gittens said Atkinson, a former member of the Parachute Regiment, was “naïve” but now understands the seriousness of what he did.
Shaun Routledge, also defending, said Alderson was also a former member of the Parachute Regiment but had been discharged due to injury.
Atkinson, of Heaton Gardens, South Shields, was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 180 hours’ unpaid work.
Mr Recorder Prosser sentenced Alderson, of West Stevenson Street, South Shields, who has been recalled to prison from a previous sentence, to four months which should ensure his immediate release due to the time he has already served.
The judge said: “Anything which interferes with the administration of justice is a very serious matter.
“I am satisfied there was a considerable degree of naivety in this case.”
The judge said he was satisfied the men were not looking to gain cash through a bribe and that Atkinson simply wanted compensation to replace the property he said he had lost.