Judge says grape theft case was ‘over-charged’

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A SHOPKEEPER who could have been facing jail after apprehending an “anti-social” young theft suspect over a bunch of grapes has kept his good name.

Owais Dar, who had been told the 15-year-old was the culprit, had chased the boy after he ran off from his family’s convenience store in Hildrop Road, Nelson. He thought he had been doing the right thing when he then drove the boy to his home in the area and handed him straight over to his father. But instead, Mr Dar had ended up being charged with false imprisonment after the youth claimed he had driven him around for 15 to 20 minutes.

The boy also alleged Mr Dar had slapped his face and threatened him in the car, but was said to have seemed more frightened of his father than the defendant when he arrived home, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The hearing was told the teenager, now 16, had been taken off a school roof about an hour before the incident by police, who confiscated a piece of wood he had been brandishing. He now had a criminal conviction and at the time had two cautions. A main prosecution witness, a 15-year-old girl, was currently serving a sentence in custody, but had been brought to give evidence.

Mr Dar, who has no criminal convictions, would say he had not been told immediately where the teenager had lived. He was due to face trial after denying the false imprisonment allegation, but it was left to lie on the file. The defendant, of Hildrop Road, who might have ended up behind bars if he had been convicted, was bound over in the sum of £250 for 12 months. He had been on bail since the incident last August and there had been no problems since.

Judge Simon Newell had told Mr Dar: “It would be your word against somebody who is not a person of impeccable character.” He said it was better to call an “honourable draw” in the situation. The judge ruled: “It is not in the public interest to proceed.”

Judge Newell, who had said it seemed the case was “over-charged” and could have been dealt with by magistrates, had earlier told the court: “The public would be adequately and properly served by the defendant agreeing to a bind over.”

Prosecutor Mr Ahmed Nadim had told the hearing he had been instructed to prosecute the case and his hands were tied. He said when police originally investigated the case and advice was sought from the Crown Prosecution Service, a lawyer advised no further action be taken.

A senior police officer then appealed that decision, a judgement was made that the disparity in ages between the defendant and the boy “made the defendant’s conduct intolerable,” the case should be tried in the public interest and the appropriate charge was false imprisonment.

Mr Nadim said the CPS had considered the matter at length, “wrestling” with the public interest issue and a decision was made on balance it was in the public interest to prosecute. A number of people had then considered the case, including prosecuting counsel and nobody had felt it appropriate to intervene with the decision to prosecute.

The prosecutor said Mr Dar’s case was that he wasn’t told immediately where the alleged victim lived, there was a bit of driving, but it wouldn’t have taken 15 to 20 minutes. Mr Nadim added the prosecution had sympathy for somebody in the defendant’s position, trying to run a business and suffering nuisance thefts. But he alleged: “He did, and ought not to have, take the law into his own hands.”

Mr Nadim had been given some time by the judge to take further instructions and when the case was called back on, he said the prosecution would not stand in the way of a bind over and asked the allegation be left to lie on the file.

Miss Katherine Pierpoint, for Mr Dar, had said: “He is extremely concerned.” She said at the time he had run the shop with his father, who had since died.

Mr Dar’s brother-in-law was now in charge of the store. The defendant accepted in future he would deal with things in a slightly different way. The barrister added: “He was upset about this and he did what he thought was right.”