Homeless sex offender in court for missing check-in deadline

A magistrate said "discretion" could have been shown by police in response to Bruce Gardner's late registration 

Mr Foulkes argued "discretion" could have been shown by police in response to Gardner's late registration  - Credit: PA WIRE

A senior magistrate said it was a shame police didn't use "a little bit of discretion" when a homeless sex offender checked into the station "a few hours late" rather than taking him to court.

Bruce Gardner, 63, of no fixed address, appeared in Norwich Magistrates' Court on May 25 charged with failing to comply with interim notification requirements as a sex offender and for possessing a controlled Class B drug.

He pleaded guilty to both charges and was given a 30-day conditional discharge by chairman of the bench Eamon Lambert.

Prosecutor Pretty Barber said Gardner was put on the list in 2015 for an exposure offence. As part of this he has to regularly notify police of his whereabouts.

She said he checked into the police station on April 14, 2021, and should have again on April 21. Instead, he turned up on April 22.

She said he was also found five days later in possession of 2g of cannabis which he tried to conceal in his trouser leg when approached by police.

Bruce Gardner. Pic Submitted.

Bruce Gardner - Credit: Archant

Ms Barber asked for prosecution costs of £105, but Mr David Foulkes, mitigating, said this was disproportionate for someone "living on the street".

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He said: "It's difficult not to have sympathy for Mr Gardner, particularly in relation to the sex offence breach.

"For most sex offenders on the list they are required to register with police annually, but for someone who is homeless it turns into weekly notifications."

He went on: "It's quite remarkable [Gardner] has managed to comply with this order for six years given the problems he faces.

"It's unfortunate some discretion couldn't have been levied but this is the climate we live in."

Mr Foulkes asked the magistrates to "see the breach for what it is - a minor mistake".

He added: "He was a few hours late. It's something we all do.

"If he was trying to do a runner he wouldn't have bothered to turn up at the station the next day."

Mr Lambert agreed, saying to Gardner: "It's a shame a little bit of discretion wasn't used here when you turned up just a few hours late.

"As long as you stay out of trouble for 30 days this will all be finished with."

Gardner was not made to pay prosecution costs, but was told to forfeit the drugs so they could be destroyed.