Jailed soldier loses appeal

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A SOLDIER, jailed for trying to sell a guitar stolen in the summer riots, faces losing his “precious” career – after top judges refused to alter his sentence.

Liam Bretherton was arrested for handling a left-handed Gibson Les Paul guitar, worth £1,900 – which had been looted from a Manchester music store during widespread rioting in August.

He was handed eight months’ detention at Manchester Crown Court in October, after he admitted handling stolen goods – leaving his army career in jeopardy.

The 20-year-old, of Larch Road, Leigh, yesterday challenged his jail term at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, with his lawyers urging top judges to consider suspending his sentence so he can keep his beloved army career.

But his appeal was dismissed by two of the country’s most senior judges, who said that, while his case was “very sad”, the sentence “could not be criticised”.

Bretherton, a gunner in the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, based in Colchester, Essex, now faces disciplinary action - which could include dismissal from the army.

The court heard he was in Manchester city centre on August 9 - the night of his 20th birthday - when looting was taking place. He paid £20 to a looter for the rare and valuable guitar, which had been stolen from a nearby music store.

Just 12 hours later, he went to a shop near his home and tried to sell the instrument, but the shopkeeper became suspicious and locked him inside before calling police.

Sentencing him, Judge Anthony Gee QC said he was a young man with an “impeccable” record, and that he understood how “precious” his career was to him and his family.

But the judge said that he would be “failing in his duty” if he didn’t jail Bretherton for his “serious” offending - made more serious by the context of the riots.

Urging top judges to review the case, his lawyers argued his jail term was beyond the sentencing guidelines for an offence of handling stolen goods and should have been suspended.

His barrister, David Temkin, told Mr Justice Royce and Judge Elgan Edwards QC that a custodial sentence made it more likely Bretherton would lose his career.

But, dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Royce said the crown court judge had to take into account the background of the riots, and therefore the usual guidelines did not apply.

The Appeal Court judge added: “The judge’s approach in this case cannot conceivably be criticised and, in spite of everything, this application must be refused.”