March 10 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Two prolific offenders who kidnapped and robbed a vulnerable quadriplegic they wheeled to a Norwich park and abandoned have been jailed for a total of more than 10 years.
Victim Stephen Dooley, 38, who was struck down with meningitis at just nine days old and as a result has been left profoundly disabled, unable to speak and completely reliant on others for his care, was waiting to be picked up from the Vauxhall Resource Centre when Adam Webster, 38, and his girlfriend Sarah Harcourt, 35, wheeled him to Chapelfield Gardens where he was robbed of £6 or £7 he kept in a bag.
Harcourt, of Gipsy Close, Norwich, had already admitted robbery and kidnap on August 8 last year but Webster, of William Kett Close, Norwich, was found guilty of both offences following a trial at Norwich Crown Court last month.
Sentencing Webster to six years and Harcourt to four years, 12 weeks, Judge Anthony Bate said they both had “appalling criminal records” and became “partners in opportunistic crimes”.
He said: “This was a despicable joint crime driven by self-centred greed and as usual an utter disregard for your victim’s feelings.”
After sentencing both defendants, Judge Bate paid tribute to the “spirit” and “strength of personality” of Mr Dooley who is now too scared to leave his home.
He said: “Whilst this experience has undoubtedly been distressing for him, I hope that, with time and the loving support of his close family, he will gain a measure of closure and begin to engage again with the outside world, which I believe is enriched by his company.”
As previously reported a jury of six men and six women took just over seven hours to find Webster guilty of both offences - unanimously on the kidnap count of the indictment and by a majority of 11 to one on the robbery offence.
The court has previously heard that the victim felt “afraid” and “scared” when he was forced to leave a resource centre in his wheelchair and taken to the park.
Giving evidence during the trial from behind a screen with the help of an interpreter and intermediary, he described how he was pushed, against his will, from the centre by Harcourt.
Richard Potts, prosecuting, said: “Did you want to be pushed?”
The victim replied “No”.
Mr Potts asked if he did anything to try and stop being pushed and the victim indicated he tried to put on his brakes.
The jury of six men and six women heard the victim was pushed out of the centre and to Chapelfield Gardens by Harcourt and Webster.
Mr Potts asked how the victim felt when he was being pushed from the centre.
He replied: “Afraid and scared.”
The court heard Harcourt had also admitted an offence of attempted theft on June 13 last year and a further offence of theft on August 1 last year.
Webster had been dealt with at the magistrates’ court for the attempted theft in June and received a 12-week sentence.
Jonathan Morgans, for Harcourt, who has 43 previous convictions for 97 offences between 1992 and 2013, said his client wanted to “apologise” and say “sorry” for what she had done.
He said the offences were committed against a background of an “out of control drug addiction” to heroin.
Mr Morgans added she should be given full credit for her pleas.
Lori Tucker, for Webster, who has 37 convictions relating to 117 offences, said her client was a “subordinate” in the offence.
She said he too had an addiction to heroin from 13 after an “extremely unhappy childhood” during which he was the victim of abuse both at home and in a care home.