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Bail bandit boy went on crime spree across Devon

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

By Ted Davenport


Christopher Howard

A teenaged tearaway was able to go on a four-month-long crime spree around Devon despite being arrested and bailed on six different occasions.

Christopher Howard broke into a Youth Hostel in Okehampton, committed car crimes in Plymouth, Ilfracombe, and Mid Devon, and went on repeated shoplifting trips to Newton Abbot.

He was arrested time after time by police but on each occasion was released to go out and commit even more crimes, Exeter Crown Court was told.

He put innocent road users at risk after leading police on a 17 mile high speed chase through Plymouth in a car he had taken from Brixham and was only stopped when a stinger device punctured the tyres.

Among the victims of his crimes were a group of primary school children who were staying at the youth hostel in Okehampton when he broke in and the owners of an Old Vicarage in the Devon countryside.

He stole cars after burgling homes to get the keys and spent a week touring Devon in a Vauxhall Insignia which he took from a guest at the Queens Hotel in Newton Abbot.

Howard, aged 18, of Queen Elizabeth Drive, Paignton but living rough for much of the summer, admitted two burglaries, five thefts, two aggravated vehicle takings, dangerous driving, drink driving, speeding, no insurance, failing to stop, possession of a knife and asked for 24 more offences to be considered.

He was jailed for two years in a young offenders’ institution and disqualified from driving for three years by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC.

The Judge told him:”You have to pay the price for your crimes, and there are rather a lot of them.

“The best point to be made in your favour is that you were not kept in custody a long time ago so this spate of offences was able to carry on with increasing frequency and seriousness when it should have been stopped some while ago.”

He drew attention to the number of times Howard had been arrested, bailed and gone on to commit more offences, describing some of the decisions to free him as ‘remarkable’.

The Judge said the Plymouth car offences were particularly serious as they put others at risk.

He said:”You committed a series of offences after taking an Alfa Romeo. You had only been disqualified a few days earlier. You drove with excessive speed, without insurance and you failed to stop for the police. You were over the alcohol limit.

“You were seen in Plymouth at 3.53 am in a car you had taken from Brixham and ignored attempts by the police to make you stop and drove off at speed from a marked police car.

“There was a pursuit for 17 miles which included passing speed cameras at Horrabridge at 57 mph and on the Embankment at 63 mph, both in 30 mph limits.

“After 17 miles you were stung by a stinger but even then you went on driving until you hit a kerb and then you tried to run off.

“A disturbing aspect of this was that you had two 16-year-old girls and one 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man with you.”

Howard’s crime spree started on June 11 with the burglary of the Youth Hostel in Klondyke Road, Okehampton, where he stole an iPod and two cameras.

During the rest of June he took a car without consent from Crediton, shoplifted at Sainsbury in Newton Abbot, broke into a room at the Queen’s Hotel and stole the keys of a Vauxhall Integra, and stole fuel for it in Newton Abbot and Exeter.

He drove the Polo which took in Crediton and abandoned it when it broke down in Ilfracombe. He also broke into sheds in Morchard Bishop and stole tools and fuel.

He was arrested in both June and July and again in August but was released and took a Mitsubishi pick up from Newton St Cyres which suffered £5,000 damage when he crashed it.

He also burgled the Old Vicarage at Colebrooke but fled empty handed after an alarm went off.

On August 27 he appeared at court where he admitted some of the earlier offences but was bailed again and a week later he was arrested again after the car chase in Plymouth.

He was bailed again and arrested a three weeks later at Cowley Bridge in Exeter carrying a knife and finally locked up after being held for yet another shoplifting in October.

Mr Sean Brunton, prosecuting, said:”There has been a plethora of different offences which span several months.”

Mr Nick Bradley, defending, said:”Although he is not a malicious young man, he has indulged himself in committing offences on a whim and done so when he pleased.”

He said Howard has been offered work as a forester working in Mid Devon on his release.