Court gives burglar 'chance in a lifetime'

PUBLISHED: 12:28 04 November 2008 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 April 2010

An East Devon man who has spent over 30 years in institutions and prisons has been given the chance of a lifetime to put his Dickensian upbringing behind him forever.

An East Devon man who has spent over 30 years in institutions and prisons has been given the chance of a lifetime to put his Dickensian upbringing behind him forever. Exeter Crown Court heard 47-year-old Moses Keeling was taught to steal by his father and had made a career out of crime. Up to 16 months ago, the longest time Keeling had been free in the community was six weeks and his last prison sentence was seven years. Then he transformed his life, getting a job, forming a relationship and even getting a TV licence. But he was crushed when he received bills ordinary people knew how to deal with and, not realising he had time to pay them, turned back to burglary in desperation to get money to settle his debts. Recorder Sarah Munro QC told Keeling: "I have no doubt that you are resigned to going back to prison for the mandatory three years but I am not going to send you there. I am going to take the bold step of passing a community order with supervision and unpaid work. "You are 47 years old and have made 33 previous court appearances for over 130 offences. You have been in prison all your life and your childhood was Dickensian, where you were taught by your father to steal. You have made a career out of crime, giving no thought to your victims and became addicted to drugs. You had little or no insight into the affect your crimes had on other people and in 2002 you were jailed for seven years. In prison you took the help offered to you and built yourself into a human being for the first time. You were a model prisoner and, when you were released for the longest time ever, you lived as a law abiding citizen. You obtained a job, got engaged and took pride in the fact that you even got a TV licence, which speaks volumes as to the life you had led up until then. In that time you only committed two minor offences which in 16 months was a huge improvement. "Unfortunately, you were then faced with bills you had never seen the like of before and resorted to the only course you knew which was burgling a flat in the early hours of the morning. You stole valuable items and caused great distress to the occupier, who was in at the time. "I should be sending you to prison for the mandatory three years but I have read your letter, which is a wholly impressive document setting out what you have achieved recently and your hopes for the future. If I sent you to prison you would not get the intensive supervision that is required so I am not going to pass a prison term," said Recorder Munro. Keeling, of Queen Street, Seaton, had pleaded guilty to burglary of a flat in Seaton where he stole £300 in cash, a mobile telephone and three fake Rolex watches. The owner of the property, Russell Bleazard, woke up to hear someone in his home and by the time he went to investigate Keeling was hot footing it down Trevelyan Road towards the harbour. Recorder Munro made Keeling the subject a two year supervision order with a condition he attend the Think First programme and do 300 hours unpaid work. "That is to help you re-integrate yourself into the community. It is a bold course, which will never happen again, so take this chance I am offering you," said Recorder Munro. "Thank you, your honour," replied Keeling.

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