Rugby man snatched gold chain from pensioner's neck and sold it at pawn shop - here's why the judge didn't jail him
A Rugby man who snatched a treasured gold chain from a pensioner’s neck as she was on her way to her local temple has walked free from court.
Manpreet Bhambhra had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to robbing the 72-year-old woman – and in an ‘astonishingly rare’ move, Judge Peter Cooke decided not to jail him.
Bhambhra (40) was given a 15-month prison sentence suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work and to pay £600 compensation to his victim.
Prosecutor Simon Burch said that at 1pm on September 9 last year the 72-year-old and a friend were walking along Manor Road, Rugby, on their way to their local temple in Craven Road.
The pensioner was wearing a £2,100 Indian gold neck chain and pendant which was of particular sentimental value to her and her husband.
“Bhambhra walked past them and turned round to face them and grabbed the chain from round her neck, causing scratches to her neck,” said Mr Burch.
Shaken by her ordeal, she continued to the temple from where the police were called.
CCTV recordings from the area were checked, as a result of which Bhambhra was identified and his movement after the robbery was traced to a pawnbroker in Church Street.
As a result, the chain, which he had sold for £565, was recovered, but not the pendant from it.
When Bhambhra was arrested he initially denied being responsible – but made full admissions after being shown the CCTV recording of the incident.
He explained that he had a crack cocaine habit and owed money to drug dealers which he was under pressure to pay off.
In a statement read in court, his victim said the ordeal has left her struggling to sleep and scared to go out.
And of the chain, she explained that it had been bought in India by her husband 40 years ago for his first wife, who has since died, and that she wears it ‘all the time in her memory.’
Indicating that he had read a letter Bhambhra had written to him, Judge Cooke said: "It’s clear he has been battling with class A drugs for some time, and he tells me he was facing increasingly unpleasant threats to repay debts.
“When he saw these two ladies walking down the street, he acted on impulse. Thankfully it has been recovered.”
Colin Charvill, defending, said Bhambhra, has now been taking steps to address his drug use.
Sentencing Bhambhra, and also ordering him to take part in a rehabilitation activity, Judge Cooke told him: “I hope you understand how astonishingly rare it is for anyone to stand before a crown court and to walk out through the public door rather than the door which leads to custody after admitting a street robbery, particularly of a lady of advanced years.
“But it is an important factor that you have got to the age of 40 without behaving in this way before.
“You acknowledge you have a problem with class A drugs, which have blighted your life, any you have a determination to do something about it.
“I accept you are completely contrite about what you have done, and that the last thing you want is ever to put another lady through what you put this lady through.
“This is an opportunity to address the underlying problems. It is a chance you could very easily blow, but if you come back having let me down, your feet won’t touch the ground.”