Harrogate burglar fails court appeal

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A burglar, who was caught stealing from his friend’s family home by vigilant neighbours has failed in an Appeal Court bid to clear his name.

Paul Edward Newton, 23, of Regent Avenue, Harrogate, was jailed for 18 months at Teesside Crown Court in January after being found guilty of burglary.

He challenged his conviction at London’s Criminal Appeal Court last Friday, with his lawyers arguing his case was “prejudiced” because the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) disposed of CCTV evidence, which could have supported his alibi.

But his appeal was dismissed by the country’s most senior judge, who said that - although the footage should have been available - his trial was not unfair, as the other evidence against him was “extremely powerful”.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, told the court Newton broke into the home of Graeme Rogers and his family in Stillington Road, Sutton-on-the-Forest, near York, and stole a safe containing about £600 and three passports in February, 2010.

The judge said Newton was a close friend of Mr Rogers’ son and had lived with the family for a few months in 2007. Neighbours spotted Newton leaving the house and confronted him, with one of them taking a note of his car registration number and description - which was handed to police.

Officers traced the blue Renault Clio to Newton and he was arrested later the same day. The stolen items were never recovered.

Newton denied any wrongdoing, claiming he had driven the car into Harrogate Town Centre on that day and hadn’t been near the house.

CCTV footage from around Harrogate showed a blue Renault Clio being driven in the direction of the road which leads to Sutton-on-the-Forest, but the registration number and the driver were not visible.

Newton’s legal team were not made aware the CCTV existed until the first day of his trial, when it was described to the jury by a police officer.

However, the footage had “overlapped” with CCTV used in another court case, and had been disposed of by the CPS when that case finished, because it was wrongly believed it was no longer needed.

Newton’s lawyers argued he did not receive a fair trial, because the prosecution did not disclose the footage as part of their case.

But, dismissing the appeal, Lord Judge said that - despite the “inefficiencies” of the CPS - the conviction was “not unsafe”, because the prosecution hadn’t relied on the evidence to prove their case.

The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Holroyde, added: “The fact of the matter was that the evidence against this appellant was extremely powerful - in the form of the identification of the car and it registration number.”

“We have reached the clear conclusion that the trial was an entirely fair one. In that case, notwithstanding the inefficiencies of the prosecution and the fact that material was not available which should have been, we reject this appeal.”