A WOULD-be car thief knocked unconscious by the vehicle’s owner has been spared jail after a judge told him he’d already received “rough justice”.
Lee Halcrow suffered a fractured skull after two men chased him after seeing him interfering with a car belonging to one of them.
The 38-year-old was spotted in the vehicle, parked in Delaval Court, South Shields, after an interior light came on.
Halcrow pleaded guilty to a charge of vehicle interference at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court last month, and sentencing was adjourned for reports.
He was back at the court to be sentenced for the crime, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 12 weeks.
However, District Judge John Foster decided to give Halcrow an 18-month conditional discharge.
He said: “You were on the receiving end of rough, summary justice.
“When people are prepared to behave like you are, you must be cautious that there are people who are fed up with these kind of offences.
“The fact of the matter is that, as a consequence of your actions, you suffered a serious injury.
“I am in no way diminishing the seriousness of this matter, but I think in light of what I’ve heard, you can be dealt with by way of a conditional discharge.”
The court heard that Halcrow, formerly of South Shields, but now living in Elm Street, Stanley, County Durham, is working with an agency to try to turn his life around.
He has 116 previous convictions for various offences, the court was told.
Judge Foster added: “If you stay out of trouble for 18 months, it would be a huge achievement on your part, but it remains to be seen whether you have learned your lesson.”
Christopher Brown, defending, said: “He was hospitalised for three or four days with a fractured skull.
“He knows that by committing the crime, he deserves to be punished by the courts.
“He is mystified that nothing came of the assault on him, but that is a separate matter.
“He didn’t cause any damage to the car or steal anything. He says he was just looking inside it.
“He has moved outside of the area under a resettlement programme, to try to make a positive change in his life.”