Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Dangerman Walks Free from the Court

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Dangerman Walks Free from the Court

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jamie Diffley and Garry Willey

A siege gunman and sex attacker has been freed by a judge after he appeared on stalking charges

James Thear was jailed for 10 years in 1996 for a gunpoint rape and in 1992 was shot by police during an armed stand-off.

But a judge at Newcastle Crown Court was unable to jail Thear when he appeared before him charged with stalking a former girlfriend.

When Thear, 39, appeared in court on charges of harassment and criminal damage, Judge Tim Hewitt told him: "I am very concerned about what is the best way of managing your case for the protection of people in society, particularly young women with whom you might become involved.

"The court is frankly in something of a dilemma.

"On the one hand psychiatrists don't think you warrant detention in a hospital, but on the other hand the penalties to keep you away from frightening and terrorising young women are not available."

Medical chiefs said schizophrenic Thear does not warrant detention in a mental hospital.

The court was told that as long as he takes his medication he poses no threat.

And with the only other legal option a short prison sentence, Thear, 39, was given a two-year community rehabilitation order last week.

Thear - called a danger to members of the public including young women when jailed in 1996 - admitted harassing Kelly Small, criminal damage and using violence to try and get into her home.

Today former police chief Lord McKenzie, of Framwellgate, Co Durham, called for a legal probe into similar cases.

Lord McKenzie, who backed the decision not to send Thear to jail, said: "It was something Jack Straw touched on when he was Home Secretary and there is certainly a case to look at this issue again to see if something can be done in legislative terms.

"I agree that we should avoid sending people with mental health problems to prison but there is a gap in the law which may well have to be looked at. …

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