An ex-soldier who suffered brain injury after being blown up in Afghanistan was spared jail for a raid on his aunt and uncle’s home, in which he stole property worth £5,500.
Ashley Clark lost two friends and suffered life-changing injuries when he was the victim of a roadside bomb in August 2010, after being sent to the war zone as a teenager.
He was airlifted back to hospital in Birmingham with his future in the Army in tatters and then began his battle to recover from his shocking wounds. He may yet need an operation to remove a cyst from his brain, Burnley Crown Court heard.
The hearing was told how Clark stole cash and a £5,000 Rolex watch from the Bacup farmhouse home of Mr and Mrs Colin Collier, knowing they kept valuables in a secret drawer in the property.
Clark also helped himself to £300 cash from the purse of his aunt, who was said to have been saving for a headstone, and £173 in pound coins from a jar, while the family was out celebrating a birthday.
Clark, a former member of the Duke of Lancaster’s Infantry, who had left his aunt very upset by his betrayal, had faced being locked up for breaching the Colliers’ trust and their home.
But, he was given a “final chance” by a judge who told him his guilty plea was what had stood between him and immediate custody.
The defendant (21), of Walk Mill Place, Cliviger, admitted burglary, on February 11th. He was given 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with supervision.
Miss Silvia Dacre (prosecuting) said that the Colliers had gone out and Clark arranged for his girlfriend to drive him to the area of the farm. She later collected him and he was counting £1 coins.
The defendant was later arrested, interviewed and made no comment. The Rolex watch was recovered, as was the £173. Miss Dacre added that the defendant was “relatively lightly convicted” and had offences of threatening behaviour, affray and excess alcohol on his record.
Mr Tim Storrie (defending) said that Clark acknowledged and understood the sense of breach of trust that must be felt by the Colliers.
He very much regretted what he had done. The barrister said: “It’s indicative of a characteristic ability to self destruct.”
The defendant was sent into a “very considerable degree of personal turmoil” after being blown up.
He woke up in hospital in Birmingham and discovered his friends and colleagues were dead. Clark had been left with loss of hearing, blurred vision and insomnia as well as the brain injury and was facing further brain surgery.
Mr Storrie continued: “It may be a key to understanding why he did something so appalling and calculated to insult Mr and Mrs Collier.
“It may be something entirely intangible and something he may not himself understand for very many years.”
Sentencing, Recorder Rachel Wood told the defendant: “This, in my view, is a disgraceful offence. You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. Mr and Mrs Collier are right to feel completely betrayed by your actions.”
The judge said that Clark had chosen to join the Army, knowing a tour of duty in Afghanistan would be on the cards, had contributed by serving his country and his situation was “truly tragic”.
But she continued: “There are many, many young men who come back from overseas with terrible, terrible injuries and do not commit offences.”