Armed raid man has jail term cut after falling for 'girl held captive' lies
One of a masked gang who terrified a Plymouth family during a "misguided rescue mission" has had his jail term cut on appeal by top judges.
John Reader, 19, believed "lies" told to him by another youth about a girl being held captive by her parents at a house in the city and agreed to take part in an armed raid on the property on January 6 last year, as part of an "extremely misguided rescue mission."
The mother of the family, who was cooking tea, answered a "loud knock" on the door and was confronted by three silent youths, their features disguised with balaclavas, whilst one was armed with what appeared to be a handgun.
The quick-witted mother slammed the door and called the police and Reader, of Clittaford Road Plymouth, along with Joshua Morris, 17 and Shane Cuzner, 21, were arrested shortly afterwards.
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Reader and Morris both pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and, in December last year, Morris, of Bishop Place, Plymouth, was handed a 12-month detention and training order, plus four months consecutive for an unrelated offence.
Reader was handed two years detention and Cuzner, of Bodmin Road Plymouth - who was convicted of the same offence and had been the one holding the imitation gun - was given three years in jail.
Today Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Griffith-Williams and Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, sitting at London's Criminal Appeal Court, refused an application for permission to appeal against sentence by Morris, but agreed to cut Reader's term to 18 months.
Nick Lewin, for Morris, told the court that Cuzner, who did not appeal today, had plotted the crime and had "lied" to the other two, saying a girl needed rescuing from the house.
The barrister said the actions of the youths "would be more kindly regarded as a rescue mission, rather than a kidnap attempt."
Mr Lewin and Ali Rafati, representing Reader, both asked for their client's sennteces to be cut.
Mr Justice Wyn Williams, delivering the court's judgement, said: "It is said in the case of Reader that the sentence was manifestly excessive, that the starting point was too high and that insufficient credit was given for the guilty plea and personal mitigation and his preparedness to assist the police in their prosecution of Cuzner, had it been necessary.
"The firearm was very realistic. It was taken to the house with a clear intention to frighten one or more members of the family.
"But for the speedy reactions of the mother of the family, their purpose would have been carried out. As to that purpose...it would seem that they sought to remove the daughter of the family from the house.
"The weapon was at the time in the possession of Cuzner, but these appellants both knew he had it and knew his intention as far as its use was concerned, and readily lent their support to that criminal enterprise.
"Their criminality was aggravated by the fact that there were three of them, and they were wearing balaclavas, all intending to terrify their targets.
"The judge had regard to the respective ages and mitigation. In our judgement the sentence in the case of Morris was well justified and his application is refused.
"In the case of Reader, we consider that there should have been some distinction drawn between his culpability and that of Cuzner, who was on any view the prime mover.
"The sentence in his case should have been 18 months detention," the judge concluded