Bungling thieves who were caught trying to steal a £55,000 tractor have been spared jail after a judge said it was hard to imagine a more ‘inept and cack-handed’ offence.
Hard working brothers Richard, 46, David, 41, and Steven Hughes, 32, were quickly arrested after using a getaway vehicle registered to their own firm and another van rented in one of their own names.
The South Yorkshire based businessmen recruited employee Mark Redfern, 38, and friend Gavin Prescott, 28, to help after being pressurised in to the ‘amateurish theft’ by travellers, Lincoln Crown Court heard.
But their hopeless plan soon went wrong when they had to abandon the JCB tractor with a top speed of 30 mph close to the yard in Corringham, near Gainsborough, after they were pursued by a member of the public who was ringing the police.
Two of the men were seen jumping out of the tractor into a waiting 4x4 vehicle after they panicked and realised they could not outrun Simon Caswell in his car.
The 4x4 getaway vehicle was quickly found to be registered to a business run by the Hughes brothers, the court was told.
Eye witnesses to the theft, which occurred in broad daylight on a summer’s evening, also described seeing a white van pulling up outside the premises, and two men approaching the entrance gate covered by a blanket as they cut open the lock.
The vehicle had been rented out in the name of Steven Hughes in his home town of Doncaster earlier the same day and was also caught on camera entering Gainsborough.
Other witnesses identified David Hughes acting as an ‘obvious lookout’ at the packed Beckett Arms pub before the tractor was driven out of the yard which belonged to agricultural machinery dealers Peacock and Binnington.
Andrew Scott, prosecuting, told the court: “The execution of their plan was quite frankly amateurish.”
The court heard the Hughes brothers had been forced to sell off their own plant hire business after suffering years of threats and intimidation at the hands of travelling criminals.
In mitigation the court heard the brothers had reluctantly recruited their friends after being visited by four travellers, but had no financial motive of their own for the theft..
All five men admitted the theft which occurred on 15th June last year.
Handing out suspended jail terms Judge Sean Morris told them it was clear this had not been a professional job.
“This was the most inept, cack-handed theft,” Judge Morris said. “It was in broad daylight, it was performed in front of an audience within yards of what was going on.”
Richard Hughes of Doncaster Road, Bawtry, and Steven Hughes of Elm Close, Doncaster, were sentenced to nine month imprisonment suspended for two years and 300 hours unpaid community work.
Mark Redfern of Reeves Way, Armthorpe, and Gavin Prescott of Greenacres Close, Dunsville, Doncaster, were sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for two years and 200 hours unpaid community work.
David Hughes of Westminster Crescent, Doncaster, was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for two years and 100 hours unpaid community work.