When a criminal offence is deemed so serious it crosses the custody threshold a judge must consider whether to send the defendant straight to prison or whether that sentence can be suspended.
If the Probation Service and judge consider there is a realistic prospect that the defendant can be successfully rehabilitated in the community he or she can avoid hearing the clang of the cell door.
If a defendant is handed a suspended sentence the last thing they hear as they walk out of the dock is a warning from the judge that if the comment new offences while the sentence is in force they will be brought back to court and in all likelihood will be jailed not only for the new offence but for the original offence too.
These people did not heed that warning and all blew their chance at freedom.
The man who ‘wants people to like him’ – and cons women out of cash
Paul Davies used a photo of a hunky cage fighter on a dating site and pretended to be a high-flying manager living in a penthouse to scam women out of more than £16,000 – while serving a suspended prison sentence for doing the same thing.
Davies used a photo of American mixed martial arts champion Cody Garbrandt in his Tinder profile and claimed to be called Aaron Edwards, posing as a successful regional manager for Audi who lived a flash apartment in Cardiff Bay.
The reality, however, was more modest – he worked in a supermarket and lived in a small terraced house in Cwmavon.
In total the 30-year-old conned eight women out of a money by spinning them a range of lies and sob stories with one women handing over £8,558 and another some £6,300. One of his victims even took out a payday loan so she could give him some money.
Swansea Crown Court court heard the scam only came to light when one of the women happened to show her friend’s nephew a photograph of the man she believed she was in an online relationship with. The youngster immediately recognised the photo as that of UFC champion Mr Gabrandt and told her she had been “catfished”.
Hywel Davies, for the defendant, said his client was “extremely embarrassed” about what he had done and was keen to pay back the cash he had taken – though he was on benefits and had no money.
The barrister said Davies had been suffering from depression following the end of a relationship and, in order to make new friends, had set up a profile and created stories “so that people would like him”.
Davies, of Hazelwood Road, Cwmavon, was sentenced to 28 months in prison for eight counts of fraud and the six-month suspended sentence he was subject to at the time was also activated to run consecutively, making an overall sentence of 34 months.
The burglar who befriended his blind victim at church
Prolific burglar Kevin Kelly befriended an elderly blind woman at church and then went to her home the next day, talked his way into her house, and stole her purse.
Kelly had turned up at a social event at the Emmanuel Christchurch in Bridgend on December 27 last year and been welcomed in. There he met and befriended a blind woman in her 80s.
The following day he went to her home and introduced himself as “Dave from the church last night” and said he was on his way to see my daughter in hospital but was “freezing cold and bursting for the toilet.”
Recognising the caller’s Newcastle accent the trusting victim let him in to use the bathroom . While the woman was not looking he snatched her bag and left.
Just five months earlier the 38-year-old, from Waun Newydd in Bridgend, been given a suspended sentence for an attempted burglary.
Robert Chudleigh, defending, said his client was “deeply apologetic” and was having bereavement counselling and treatment for alcohol abuse.
Jailing him at Cardiff Crown Court Judge Paul Thomas QC noted the had previous convictions in Newcastle, Kent, and the Isle of Wight, and said: “That may have been something to do with your lifestyle or it may be you are a professional burglar.”
Kelly was jailed for five years.
The drug dealer arrested as he drove into Swansea
Six months after being given a suspended sentence for possession of heroin and crack cocaine with intent supply at Worcester Crown Court Aston Robinson was arrested driving into Swansea – with a stash of crack and heroin.
Robinson was the passenger in a BMW which was pulled over in Fabian Way in an intelligence-led stop.
When the car was searched officers found a “ball” of cling film wraps containing heroin and crack cocaine deals along with a number of mobile phones. One of the phones had been used to send a bulk text message to 52 contacts earlier that same day saying the dealers were “on”, or working, and were doing three for the price of two deals.
Robinson, aged 20, of Roslin Grove, Lozells, Birmingham, denied being involved in dealing but was convicted following a trial at Swansea Crown Court.
Hywel Davies, for Robinson, said his client had become involved in drug dealing after threats were made against his family. He said the defendant acted as the primary carer for his grandmother and he described him as “a man whose vulnerability has been exploited”. The barrister added that Robinson had asthma and a hole in the heart and was anxious about the possibility of contracting coronavirus in prison due to his underlying health issues.
He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison with another six months of the previously-imposed suspended sentence activated to run consecutively, making an overall sentence of five years.
The arrogant bully who breaches restraining orders
In December last year Darren O’Connor was handed a suspended sentence and made the subject of a restraining order after he smashed a former partner’s garden fence with a sledgehammer and then attacked a neighbour who intervened with an extendable police-style baton.
By March this year the 47-year-old had already breached the restraining order by contacting the woman – but on that occasion the suspended sentence was not activated. The day after he avoided jail for that breach he posted one of a series of disparaging comments about the woman on Facebook, again in breach of the court order.
O’Connor, of Kenfig Place, Bonymaen, Swansea, admitted four counts of breaching a restraining order when he appeared in court.
Lee Davies, for O’Connor, said the defendant understood the court “takes a dim view” of people who breach its orders and said his client accepted his conduct had been foolish and unacceptable and that posting a message the day after being sentenced for a breach was “stupid in the extreme”.
Judge Geraint Walters told the defendant he was “arrogant” and “a bully”.
He said the judge who had sentenced him in December had given him a chance by imposing a suspended sentence while the judge who had dealt with him in March had given him a further opportunity by not activating that sentence. He said: “The question is, can I find it within myself to give you another chance? I fear I cannot.”
O’Connor was sentenced to six months in prison for breaching the restraining order and six months of the previously-imposed suspended sentence was also activated to run consecutively, making an overall sentence of 12 months.
The violent thug
Michael Knowles attacked his mum and her partner weeks after being handed a suspended prison sentence for assaulting his pregnant partner.
Knowles had grabbed his girlfriend by the neck and throttled her before throwing her against a door and punching her to the head.
Just over a month after being sentenced for that Knowles – who “had traces of white powder around his nose” – punched his mother’s partner in the head while wearing a knuckleduster. A few days later the 24-year-old began smashing objects in his mother’s house before grabbing the woman and spitting in her face.
Marian Lewis, for Knowles, said while in custody he had diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said his childhood had been “peppered with adverse traumatic experiences which have affected how he perceives and responds to certain situations” and a pre-sentence report found he was immature and had difficulties expressing himself, making decisions, and managing his emotions.
Knowles was jailed for 18 months.
The crack addict who robbed a shop at knifepoint with a sock on his head
James Powell made himself a balaclava and gloves from a pair of socks then took a kitchen knife and went to rob a convenience store.
A masked and drugged-up Powell, 32, threated the lone female behind the counter at the Wainfelin store with the blade and demanded cigarettes and cash.
He and his accomplice then spent the £200 they stole on more crack cocaine.
The pair were caught after a passerby was able to give police a partial number plate for their getaway car.
Powell, of Beech Close in Cwmbran, has 19 previous offences on his record including for inflicting grievous bodily harm, kidnapping, dangerous driving, and drug offences. At the time of the robbery he was subject to a suspended prison sentence for driving while disqualified and drink-driving.
Nigel Fryer, for Powell, said the dad-of-two was taking steps to address his addictions. He said: “He knows he simply has to change. He is going to spend longer and longer terms in custody and, with a young family, he does not want to do that.”
Powell was jailed for four years and four months.
The ‘extremely timid’ drug dealer led police on 70mph chase after smoking cannabis
Dad-of-three Jordan Ross led police on a high-speed chase through the residential streets of Barry after taking cannabis.
Ross hit speeds of 70mph as he raced away from officers in his mum’s car, which he had taken without her consent.
During the course of the chase the 25-year-old banned driver went the wrong way around a rounabout.
The incident took place while he was subject to a suspended prison sentence for supplying cannabis.
Ross, from Shelley Crescent, Barry, admitted aggravated vehicle-taking, driving dangerously while under the influence of drugs, failing to stop, and driving without a licence or insurance when he appeared at Cardiff Crown Court.
Hashim Salmman, for Ross, described his client as a softly spoken and “extremely timid” father-of-three who taking medication for anxiety and depression.
Judge Niclas Parry told Ross he had been given numerous opportunities by the courts over the years, adding: “There comes a time when everybody runs out of chances.”
Ross was jailed for 16 months and disqualified from driving for two years from the time of his release. He must pass an extended re-test before being allowed to drive again.
The repeat burglar caught thanks to corner shop chat
Prolific offender Terry Hughes was subject to a suspended sentence for burgling shops when he crept a flat as his victim slept.
Hughes went into the Neath man’s bedroom and stole his mobile phone, which contained irreplaceable family photos.
The 31-year-old was caught after the victim subsequently discussed the burglary with a member of staff in his local corner shop and a fellow customer said she knew who was responsible.
Hughes, of Old Road, Skewen, has 41 previous convictions for 103 offences on his record including six for house and non-dwelling burglaries. Just four months before burgling the flat he had been handed a prison sentence for two commercial burglaries.
Dan Griffiths, for Hughes, said the defendant had been highly intoxicated on street Valium at the time of the burglary and “remembers very little about what he did”. He said the defendant wished to apologise to his victim.
Judge Huw Rees told the defendant it was up to him whether he wanted to address his drug issues but warned that if he didn’t he would be facing ever-longer prison sentences.
Hughes was jailed for a total of 16 months.
The violent offender who left a rugby player with bleeding on the brain
Kyle Davies carried out the unprovoked attack outside a Neath nightclub which has left his victim unable to play the game he loved.
Davies delivered a “heavy punch” to his young victim outside the Arch club, knocking him to the floor and rendering him unconcious.
The defendant walked away and went to another bar in town while his victim was taken by ambulance to Morriston Hospital where scans revealed a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain, and a thrombosis on the jugular vein. He spent three days in hospital before being discharged to the care of the brain injury team.
In a statement read to court the victim said he had been unable to play rugby, which had been his “passion”, as a result of the attack. He said he had to take four weeks off work and was suffering with dizzy spells and was concerned about the impact of the incident on his future.
Davies, aged 28, of March Hywel, Cilfrew, Neath, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) when he appeared at Swansea Crown Court.
The court heard he has previous convictions for 14 offences including for GBH – an incident which had seen him repeatedly punch a man in the face at the Together dance music festival in Carmarthen – and for affray after he had punched two men in the street in Neath town centre.
He was on a suspended sentence for drink-driving at the time he launched the nightclub assault.
Barrister Ieuan Rees, for Davies, said the defendant had told him “all he wants to do is to settle down with his girlfriend and get on with his life”.
Judge Keith Thomas told Davies he had caused his victim a very serious injury which had had a significant effect on his life and jailed him for 25 months.
The domestic abuser who ignored order to ‘sort yourself out’
Daniel Skimmings grabbed his partner by the throat and choked her to the point she lost consciousness.
The 30-year-old was told by Judge Niclas Parry: “Clearly you are an angry man when crossed and not for the first time you were upset by a female. And, as you have done with a previous partner, your response was to attack her strangling her to the point of unconsciousness and leaving her with facial injuries.”
The attack, on March 16 this year, came nine months after Skimmings was spared jail after he admitted headbutting two strangers without warning in a bar. He was given an 18-week jail term, suspended for two years, by magistrates who told him: “Sort yourself out.”
But Skimmings found himself before Mold Crown Court in April this year following his latest violent offence for which he admitted assault and breaching a suspended sentence.
Skimmings, of Caia Park, Wrexham, and was jailed for 18 months for the attack on his partner while the judge activated 12 weeks of the suspended sentence to run consecutively, making a total jail term of 21 months.