Fence who handled £21,000 kit from Braunton raid sentenced

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

A serial offender who was caught with expensive goods stolen in a £21,000 raid on a photographic studio has given a suspended sentence.

Phillip Matthews did not carry out the raid on a professional photographer’s studio in Barnstaple but police seized some of the items when they raided his home in Taunton a week later.

Rucksacks, a camera bag, video camera, and data cards stolen in raid were found by police but around £20,0000 of kit including a drone were never recovered.

Photographer and filmmaker Simon Cotter was left £3,000 out of pocket because his insurance did not cover the full cost of the equipment stolen in May 2020.

Matthews, aged 36, of Priory Avenue, Taunton, admitted handling stolen goods and was jailed for eight months, suspended for two years with 15 days of rehabilitation activities by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

The new sentence will run alongside another suspended sentence for a burglary at the Cove fashion shop in Barnstaple on February 1 last year in which he stole cash and two charity tins.

He was under investigation for that offence when he was caught with the items stolen from a unit in Velator Way, Braunton on May 16, 2020.

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The judge told him: “The circumstances of this offence are rather serious. The fact that you were not prosecuted for the burglary is neither here nor there because of the damage done by the theft.

“Without people willing to handle stolen goods, there would be less burglary and theft. Handling encourages criminality. The victim was caused enormous inconvenience and disturbance by the loss of his equipment.

“You have 35 convictions for 93 offences and until about a year ago, to use an expression, you were bang at it and showing no sign of stopping your criminality.

“There are now clear signs that you have stopped and changed your direction and you are doing well on supervision.”

Mr Greg Richardson, prosecuting, told an earlier hearing that police found several items from the Braunton raid when they arrested Matthews for the Cove boutique burglary at his home in Taunton on May 23, 2020.

He denied being involved in the burglary itself but said he knew that the items were stolen. They represented only a small fraction of the £21,242 value of the stolen kit.

Mr Martin Pearce, defending, said Matthews has received glowing reports from the probation service and has made such good progress with tackling his drug addiction that he is no longer considered to need a rehabilitation order.

He has stayed out of trouble since this offence and now has a new partner and a stable home in Taunton. He is expecting to move to Wellington shortly.

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