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21-year-old thief caused £10,000 worth of damage to Hungerford Primary School before fleeing from Thames Valley Police officers

A THIEF who targeted Hungerford Primary School, leaving a trail of destruction costing nearly £10,000, may yet escape an immediate custodial sentence.

The 21-year-old culprit, who has numerous previous convictions, led police on a car chase through the town after stripping metal from the school roof, causing major disruption.

On Wednesday, June 2, Mason William Gillespie appeared for sentencing at Reading Crown Court.

Damage caused to the roof of Hungerford Primary School in a previous,unrelated raid
Damage caused to the roof of Hungerford Primary School in a previous,unrelated raid

There, it emerged he had also stripped lead from a Newbury building causing a loss of more than £30,000.

The court was told that Gillespie, whose address was last recorded as Sowerby Street, Thatcham, was caught after residents called police following loud bangs coming from the school building late at night.

Police arrived and gave chase to Gillespie's car but he refused to stop and managed to shake off his pursuers.

Police tracked him to his girlfriend's house where they found the car with piles of lead still in it.

Gillespie had previously admitted stealing the lead from the school roof on November 26 last year.

He further admitted driving a Vauxhall Meriva in Fairview Road, Hungerford, without insurance or a valid licence, and failing to stop when required to do so by a uniformed police officer, all on the same occasion.

In addition, Mr Gillespie admitted stealing thousands of pounds worth of lead from premises in Newbury on two occasions last October.

He has prior convictions for offences of theft, assault, taking a vehicle without consent, aggravated vehicle taking, handling stolen goods, theft from a dwelling and other motoring offences, the court heard.

At a previous hearing Gillespie was ordered to co-operate with the compiling of a pre-sentence report.

But he did not engage with the probation service and so no report was available at the sentencing hearing.

Sarah McIntyre, defending, pleaded with Judge Heather Norton to give her client another chance at co-operating, rather than sending him straight to prison.

She told of Gillespie's troubled childhood, reportedly having both parents addicted to drugs.

Judge Norton challenged Gillespie to show remorse by informing the court who was going to buy the stolen lead.

She said: "Scrap yards are pretty well regulated these days."

After conferring with her client, Ms McIntyre said only that "someone" had told him to take it to a particular scrap yard.

Judge Norton said: "Stealing lead from buildings is not only a serious offence in itself but it causes an enormous amount of damage and great disruption to people using those buildings, which included primary school children."

Nevertheless she gave Gillespie another shot at a potential suspended prison sentence by allowing him a second opportunity to co-operate with probation services in compiling a pre-sentence report.

Gillespie was meanwhile released on unconditional bail.

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