Homeless man jailed for attacking priest’s car

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A troubled man who damaged a priest’s car with a paving slab and stole two bottles of wine from a supermarket has been jailed.

Neil Masters, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to charges of criminal damage and theft at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard Masters, 31, approached Father John Johnson of St Mary’s RC Church on Standishgate for help after leaving hospital.

Prosecuting, Nicola Ormerod, told the court that after Fr Johnson said he would see what help he could offer if Masters returned, the following day the defendant picked up the slab and began hitting the Nissan Micra which was parked outside the church.

The incident left Fr Johnson facing a bill of around £2,000 to fix a smashed windscreen, damage to the near side window, and dents in the bonnet and one of the wing panels.

Ms Ormerod read out a victim impact statement explaining the effect the incident on April 19 had on Fr Johnson, who told Masters he was not well himself.

She said: “He was surprised and shaken up by the experience. He said he is a kind and forgiving man who would never mean any harm to anybody and couldn’t believe he treated him like that.”

The court heard police who attended the scene found Masters inside the car semi-conscious.

In interview he told officers he had been shoplifting on a daily basis since leaving prison in March and CCTV evidence confirmed a man matching Masters’ description had stolen wine from the Tesco store on Gidlow Lane in Beech Hill.

He also told police he just wanted to go home as he could not help himself and when asked where that was replied: “Prison”.

Defending, Peter Moran said: “It is a very sad indictment. The circumstances speak for themselves, he was released from prison and after living with his dad for a few days went on his way drinking and occasionally misusing heroin.

“He left Wigan Infirmary and went along the usual route into town past the church. When he was told to come back the following day he was still drunk and caused the damage which he apologises for.”

The magistrates ordered him to serve 10 weeks in prison and pay £300 compensation to Fr Johnson.

Sentencing him, chair of the bench Christine Bate said: “You targeted a vulnerable victim, you were still on licence and a significantly high value of damage was caused.”