A man who admitted being part of a gang which tried to steal an ATM with £107,000 cash inside has been jailed for three years.
Morgan Paine, 26, of Bentswood Road, Haywards Heath, who had 45 previous convictions, was sentenced at Brighton Law Courts today (January 8).
Paine, whom police describe as having frequented the Crawley area as well as Haywards Heath, had pleaded guilty to attempted theft.
Prosecutor Julian Dale said Paine was one of a gang of four men, two dressed in high visibility jackets, who set up ‘road closed’ signs, barriers, and traffic cones on the A272 Bolney Road, near Ansty, in the early hours of November 28.
He said two police officers on traffic patrol came across the signs just before 1am.
“A report came through on their radio regarding the attempted theft of an ATM at the Ansty filling station,” he said. “Two people who lived close by had been alerted.”
When the police officers arrived at the petrol station they saw four people, two of them wearing balaclavas, standing by a Mitsubishi 4x4 which had been backed into the ATM.
All four got into the vehicle and tried to drive off but collided with the police car.
They then got out and ran off. One police officer stayed at the scene, while the other chased after them.
“PC Mark Robinson pursued the four as they fled,” said Mr Dale.
“He found himself in the middle of some rough fields in the middle of the night, isolated but aware that this defendant was hiding in the bracken.
“The Crown say he was conspicuously brave in tackling this defendant, knowing that there were three other defendants close by.
“Mr Paine didn’t in fact struggle with that officer, and fairly quickly volunteered his name.”
He said the other three got away empty handed, but £14,000 worth of damage had been caused to the ATM and garage.
The court heard that Paine had 45 previous convictions for 90 offences, including theft, burglary, minor violence, and drink and Class C drug related offences.
At the time, he had been serving a 15 week sentence, suspended for two years, for racially aggravated assault.
Miss Tate, representing Paine, said he had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
“This a young man, 26 years old, who has a problem with alcohol,” she said.
“When one looks at his record, one can see that that is reflected in his offending history.”
She added: “Up until this offence, he was in full time employment.
“He owed money to people - he felt pressured to be part of this group.
“He’s sorry, he realises that he’s got himself into very deep water.
“It weighs heavily on his mind, particularly now when his partner is unwell, and their children are being cared for by a grandmother.”
Judge Anthony Niblett said: “This clearly was a highly sophisticated offence, with a significant degree of planning, using signs which presumably were misappropriated.
“This offence, combined with your history of previous offending and failure to comply with community orders, is clearly so serious that only an immediate and substantial custodial sentence can be justified.”
He nominated the police officers for a commendation from the chief constable, saying they had prevented ‘a very serious criminal offence’.
“It’s thanks to the prompt action of both of these officers that theft of over £100,000 in cash was prevented.
“PC Mark Robinson, in the hours of night, gave chase to four offenders, two of whom had been seen to be wearing balaclavas.
“These were clearly sophisticated and organised criminals. Isolated and alone, he wasn’t to know what dangers he faced.
“Fortunately, and to that defendant’s credit, he didn’t resist that officer in any way.
“PC Robinson wasn’t to know that, nor was he to know what the other three might have done to him.”
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