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Norwich family in shock as drunken intruder goes unpunished

Tim Johnston and Sian Evans

Tim Johnston and Sian Evans

Archant © 2011

A Norwich family today spoke of their shock after being told that no action could be taken against a drunken intruder, despite him being caught in their home by police.

"I just don’t feel secure in my home after this."

Sian Evans

The family-of-six were left cowering in their Lakenham house when the teenager broke into the property while they were asleep upstairs.

They immediately called police who told them to barricade themselves into an upstairs room until they arrived on the scene.

However, even though officers eventually handcuffed the intruder on the family’s very own sofa and despite the fact that he had climbed through a bathroom window to enter the property, police admitted they were powerless to take any action against him. They say the 17-year-old youth was released without charge when they realised he had mistakenly entered the property while under the influence of alcohol and, therefore, no crime had taken place.

Technically the teenager had committed trespass, which is a civil matter, not a criminal one, so legal action would have to be taken by the family themselves, which they do not want to do.

Today, couple Sian Evans and Tim Johnston, told of their dismay that someone who is caught in somebody’s else’s home could not be punished for it. Miss Evans, 31, said: “I feel like there is nothing either of us can do, I just don’t feel secure in my home after this. We haven’t been offered any counselling or anything like that by the police either, so we feel let down really.

“We just think that people should know that they are not necessarily safe in their own home. We are now suffering the consequences of knowing that people can get away with doing things like this.”

The drama unfolded shortly after 2am as the couple and Miss Evans’ three sons Samuel, Luke and Edward, aged four, 12 and 14 respectively and daughter Holly, aged 10, slept in their Beeching Road home. Having heard noises outside the house – including bottles being tripped over – Mr Johnston, 32, went downstairs to investigate further. He heard the handle on the locked front door being tried and decided to ring the police.

He said: “He had obviously realised I was there because I heard them clamber over the back gate, so I dialled 999. The police said to get the family all in one room so we did that, which got the kids scared, and then we heard the fence and bottles go again.”

Mr Johnston was still on the phone when he heard the intruder enter the house. The intruder went upstairs and was heard saying “Ashley, it’s Sam”.

Mr Johnston added: “He started knocking on the door of the room we were in so we really didn’t know what to do at this point.

“He went back downstairs and went to leave through the front door when the police came in and cuffed him on our sofa. I went down and spoke to the police then and I could see that he had climbed in through the bathroom window.

“He was then taken to Bethel Street Police Station and we had to give statements. He had blue spray paint or something on his hands so he had left loads of marks and he also left his bike in our back garden, which was taken away by a police van the next day.”

The couple were shocked to be told that police had released the drunken teenager after accepting that he thought he was in a different house and that because he had no previous criminal record they felt that a severe reprimand would suffice.

Mr Johnston - who was keen to stress that his dismay does not sit wholly with the local police, as they were just following the laws they must abide by - added: “I couldn’t believe it; the guy has walked around our house at 2am and they have just said ‘naughty boy’.

“Sian’s daughter won’t sleep in her room alone now and we are all scared that we can’t feel safe in our own home.

“He was drunk and we think he had been at a party down the road. But the police are saying he has got no previous record and was so drunk he had no idea what he was doing.”

Norwich Police confirmed that they were called out on Monday, January 17 and that the teenager, who had no previous criminal record, had shown great remorse for his actions.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Firm said: “We responded to reports of an intruder at a property. On arrival, a 17-year-old man was arrested, initially on suspicion of burglary. Following a full investigation it was established the teenager had mistakenly entered the home while under the influence of alcohol and that no criminal offences has occurred.

“It was, however, a very distressing incident for the family involved. The man was extremely upset by his own behaviour and has been given strong words of advice by officers.

“He has agreed to write a letter of apology to the family and has assured officers that he will not be responsible for any offences like this in the future.”

Do you think the police acted in the right way? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or on email at david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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