Woman's sentence was too severe, say judges
A SHOPKEEPER threatened with jail for agreeing to buy £24 of stolen tobacco for her own use has had her sentence overturned by top judges who said she had been punished too harshly.
Sonia Maria Hall received a six-month prison term, suspended for two years, at Plymouth Crown Court in June this year, after she admitted attempting to handle stolen goods.
Judge Nicholas Cooke QC told London's Appeal Court how the 33-year-old was prosecuted after an undercover detective posed as a tobacco dealer and offered to sell her four packs of stolen rolling tobacco – worth around £24.
The prosecution claimed Hall's crime was made worse by the fact that she was the proprietor of a second-hand shop.
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Hall, who ran the repair shop in Stonehouse challenged her sentence with claims that it was disproportionate to her crime and excessive.
Judge Cooke, sitting with Mr Justice Collins, said she had tried to buy the tobacco for personal use and the fact that she was a shopkeeper was irrelevant.
Although the courts should deter offenders from "succumbing to the temptation" of buying contraband, the "custody threshold" had not been passed, he found.
"The offence could be dealt with by way of a community order. This was small-scale offending", he added.
The court substituted a 12-month community order handed to Hall, of Laurel Road, North Prospect, with 150 hours unpaid work.