Power cut plunges court into darkness

A POWER cut struck out the lights at Wigan Magistrates’ Court yesterday just as a defendant was about to admit dishonestly abstracting electricity.

Proceedings against Peter Gardner were halted momentarily when all but the court’s emergency lights suddenly flicked off.

However, the 33-year-old pleaded guilty to the charge moments later when justices and solicitors alike decided to plough on regardless.

Prosecutor Jayne Kearsley told the court how Gardner’s offence first came to light in February when police were called after the defendant refused to let Wigan and Leigh Housing staff evict him from a property in Worsley Mesnes. When officers entered the house they quickly spotted that the electricity meter had been tampered with and bypassed by a wire passing underneath.

In a subsequent police interview, Gardner claimed he had been approached by a man in May 2009 who wanted to convert the house into a cannabis farm, and it was he who organised for an electrician to set up the meter so electricity could be used without charge.

The defendant also said he had tried to put the meter back on and apologised for breaking the law.

Melissa Fagan, defending, said utility firms had already charged debt collectors with the job of retrieving more than £1,100 from her client.

About £630 of this related to the electricity dishonestly used and the rest to repair the home’s meter.

She argued that Gardner, of Northumberland Street, Whelley, was “already paying the price”.

She said he deserved credit for his guilty plea and his full and frank admissions to the police.

Magistrates handed the defendant a four-month community order, which included a 12-week curfew between 7pm-7am.

He was also ordered to pay £35 towards prosecution costs.