A burglary victim who carried out a revenge attack on one of the teenagers who had broken into his Rugby home has escaped being jailed by the skin of his teeth.
A judge at Coventry Crown Court heard that instead of calling the police, Stephen Elliott took the law into his own hands and tracked down burglar Nick Neal.
He then attacked the 19-year-old, hitting him repeatedly with the metal bar which had been used to break into his home.
But Elliott, 41, of Lower Hillmorton Road, Rugby, who had pleaded guilty to assaulting Neal causing him actual bodily harm and possessing an offensive weapon, narrowly escaped being jailed.
He was sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for 18 months, with 18 months supervision, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and to take part in an alcohol treatment programme.
Recorder Robert Spencer-Bernard also ordered Elliott to pay £700 costs – but said he would not order him to pay any compensation to Neal ‘for obvious reasons’.
Prosecutor Nicholas Burn said that at the end of March Elliott’s home was burgled by Neal and others, which caused him ‘great distress.’
“But rather than report the matter to the police, he decided to make his own enquiries and, equipping himself with a metal bar which had been used in the burglary, he sought out the person he believed had been responsible,” he added.
He and another man, both wearing masks, went to an address in Marlborough Road, Rugby, where they approached Neal, who was standing outside with his brother.
One of them asked who was Nick Neal, and when his brother stood in front of him, one of the men pulled out a metal bar and struck his brother, who managed to get away.
Neal ran into a neighbour’s garden and went to the door to try to get help, but Elliott followed him and got him on the floor and attacked him with the bar.
“The neighbour describes a sustained assault. He looked out of a bedroom window and saw a man standing over another person on the ground, attacking him. It was fortunate he didn’t sustain more severe injuries,” said Mr Burn.
Recorder Spencer-Bernard said: “Taking the law into his own hands and disguising himself and arming himself with a metal bar, it’s a planned revenge attack.”
When Elliott, who had previous convictions for violence but none since 2007, was arrested he at first denied the assault.
But he then admitted it, explaining that during the burglary his grandfather’s medals had been thrown to the floor and some photographs of his children had been taken.
And he told the police that, having tracked down Neal, he had intended to seek out another youth he believed was involved.
Mr Burn added that Neal has since pleaded guilty to the burglary and been given a community order with 225 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay Elliott £205 compensation, while a youth who also took part was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £320 compensation.
Michele McLeod, defending, said: “The burglary occurred three days before this offence. He had returned to find him home considerably ransacked.
“He was less upset by the fact that they had taken electrical items and cash than by the ransacking. “Photographs of his children, which had been in his wallet, were found in a nearby drain.
“He should have dealt with it differently. While the burglary does not amount to provocation, it does explain the state of mind of Mr Elliott at the time.
“He is incredibly sorry that matters have come to this.”
Miss McLeod added that a report on him suggests that a custodial sentence would have ‘little positive effect,’ and he would probably lose his job.
Sentencing Elliott, Recorder Spencer-Bernard said: “At your age of 41 you should know better than to go after people, no matter how distressing you might have found it.
“The police are there to do the job. It is absolutely intolerable in our society that anyone who is the victim of crime should go after anyone who has committed the offence, otherwise it results in a complete breakdown.
“This was premeditated, it was not a reaction. It was three days later. It is unacceptable behaviour.
“But your guilty pleas at a very early opportunity, in my judgement, just tip the scale enough to enable me to suspend the sentence which would otherwise have been entirely merited.
“You have escaped immediate custody by the skin of your teeth.”