Thieves who raided Gittisham Forge spared jail

PUBLISHED: 15:52 24 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:52 24 July 2017

Archant

David Wells and Jobe Barney thought they had disconnected the camera at the forge, near Honiton, but in fact it was recording everything they did.

A pair of thieves who raided a historic forge ended up filming themselves after their attempt to sabotage a CCTV system failed.

David Wells and Jobe Barney thought they had disconnected the camera at the Gittisham Forge, near Honiton, but in fact it was recording everything they did.

Wells was filmed laughing and joking as he carried batteries, cables and a copper boiler to Barney’s van, where his accomplice loaded it.

They were caught because they were both easily recognisable on the footage, which Forge owner Julian Rowe released on Facebook. Barney’s number plate was also visible and he was the registered keeper.

The pair of villains had travelled from Wiltshire to carry out the raid and struck when Mr Rowe was out of his yard for a few minutes helping people stranded by floods last November.

Mr Rowe, whose family have run the forge for 125 years, did not realise anything was wrong until his son Alex noticed the CCTV system had been tampered with.

Alex, who hopes to become the sixth generation to work as a blacksmith, reviewed the images and saw the two men carrying out items and loading the van.

Wells, aged 40, of Westfields Road, Zeal, near Warminster, admitted theft and was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £480 and attend a ‘Thinking Skills’ course by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter Crown Court.

Barney, aged 24, of Mill Lane Close, Warminster, admitted theft and was jailed for four months, suspended for 18 months, curfewed for three months, and ordered to pay £480 compensation at an earlier hearing.

Judge Cottle said:”They did not disable the CCTV and it gave the police all the circumstances they needed in relation to this case. As far as this case is concerned I’m not sure if there is anything to distinguish one defendant from the other.

“This was a commercial theft and the property has not been recovered.”

He told Wells:”You could very easily be leaving this court by the door to the cells. It is time you mended your ways, You have a young family to look after. You must start accepting responsibility.”

Miss Bathsheba Cassel, prosecuting, said the theft took place at The Forge in Gittisham at around 4 pm on November 21 last year when two men arrived in a white van and stole lead batteries, welding cables and a copper tank worth £1,540.

She said:”The offence came to light when Mr Rowe’s son noticed a wire had been removed from the CCTV and looked at the recording from that afternoon.

“It seems the CCTV had been damaged in some way but carried on working.”

Wells was not represented but a probation report said he has not been in trouble since this offence and is supporting a partner and three dependent children by working as a tree surgeon.

He said he had not planned the theft and said it had been an opportunistic act of stupidity. He is due to go on a probation run thinking skills course next month.

Wells himself told the judge:”I am very sorry for my stupidity.”

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