One last chance: Criminal avoids jail after waving claw hammer and making 'threatening' gestures

A man has escaped jail at a case in York Crown Court after he was spotted waving a claw hammer at people in Harrogate.
A man has escaped jail at a case in York Crown Court after he was spotted waving a claw hammer at people in Harrogate.

A notorious criminal who threatened two men with a claw hammer then burgled a couple’s home while on bail has been spared prison.

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Charlie Tiger Stewart, 29, got out of his white Transit van brandishing the hammer and headed straight for the two men, who backed off as Stewart made “threatening” gestures.

The terrifying incident in Harrogate was witnessed by two females who called police, York Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe said that Stewart - thought to have been high on drugs at the time - shot out of the van after performing a U-turn and began screaming at one of the men. He then pulled a claw hammer out of the back of his trousers, raised it above his head and swung it around.

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“The male backed off and raised his hands in a defensive gesture,” added Mr Newcombe. “The defendant advanced and the other male retreated. The defendant swung the hammer in an
aggressive and threatening way.”

A third man appeared on the scene and tried to play peacemaker, whereupon Stewart got back in the van, still brandishing the hammer and making abusive gestures, before driving away.

Upon his arrest, Stewart was found with 10.5g of cocaine and 95g of crack. He was hauled into custody but made no comment.

Stewart, who is on benefits, was bailed following the incident on July 23 last year, but four months later he and an accomplice stole two racing bikes worth £1,800 from a couple’s home in Knaresborough after forcing open a garage door.

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Stewart rode off on one of the bikes, neither of which were recovered. He was re-arrested but would not tell police what had happened to the bikes.

The owner of the “precious” bicycles said his wife was 38 weeks’ pregnant at the time of the thefts on November 9 and had been suffering from anxiety and depression. They had saved hard to buy the expensive bikes and had been seriously affected by the incident.

“They found the whole incident scary,” said Mr Newcombe. “They’ve had feelings of anxiety. They’re even considering having to sell one of their cars to make up the financial shortfall of having lost the two bikes.”

Stewart, of Fisher Gardens, Knaresborough, was charged with theft and handling stolen goods, as well as two counts of possessing Class A drugs, affray and possessing an offensive weapon in connection with the incident in Harrogate.

He denied both affray and possessing a weapon on the grounds that he never intended to use the hammer in a violent way, claiming he was merely showing a friend “how to break a boiler”.

At the preceding trial, the jury found him guilty of affray but not guilty of possessing an offensive weapon because they couldn’t be sure he intended to use the weapon for violent purposes.

Stewart was back in court on Friday to be sentenced for the affray, drugs possession, theft and handling stolen goods, all of which he ultimately admitted.

The court heard that over the past 15 years, he had racked up a huge number of previous convictions for a raft of burglaries, as well as drug offences, aggravated vehicle-taking, theft and threatening behaviour.

Defence barrister Peter Minnikin said Stewart had mental-health problems and was getting help from a community support team. He urged judge Andrew Stubbs QC to give Stewart one last chance to mend his ways and “break the cycle of offending” through intervention by the Probation Service and mental-health workers.

Mr Stubbs QC blasted Stewart for brandishing a hammer on the streets of Harrogate and then stealing “precious” bicycles from the distraught couple, the effect on whom had been “long-lasting”.

He said he suspected that Stewart had sold the bikes to buy drugs.

“Since a juvenile, you have been burgling, taking drugs and been violent,” added Mr Stubbs.

However, he said he had “just” been persuaded to give Stewart one last chance to get the help he needed in the hope that he would stop his criminal antics.

Stewart was spared jail and instead given a two-year community order with 40 days’ rehabilitation and 140 hours’ unpaid work. In addition, Mr Stubbs ordered him to pay the couple £500
compensation towards the loss of their bicycles.