Prolific Burnley thief jailed for smash, grab and burn

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A prolific thief smashed his way into a secure warehouse to steal back stolen cars waiting for forensic tests and then set them on fire, putting the lives of a family in danger.

Michael Royal (22), of Sedburgh Street, Burnley, was jailed for a total of three years for a spree of crimes committed while he was on licence, subject to a community order and on bail.

Burnley Crown Court was told he and accomplices broke into Graham Ward’s heavily-gated secure compound on Gannow Lane and smashed though the huge roller door with a car in a night time raid to retrieve two cars impounded by the police.

The silver Volvo had been stolen from Hull and the blue VW Golf from Middleton; both had false plates. The thieves left skid marks in the compound as they sped away.

Royal told police he wanted to get the cars back to recoup his outlay.

At midnight, in Colne, a family was awakened by a loud explosion at the rear of their house in Hawley Street shortly after two people had seen a blazing car being pushed down the back street. The VW came to rest against the back yard wall of the terraced house. The Volvo had also been set alight.

Passing sentence, Mr Recorder Philip Parry said Royal had shown no remorse about the raid on the compound where there was £5,000 damage, and that he had caused fear to the family.

“They gathered together their young family from their beds, fearing that the back of the house would be engulfed in flames or that the smoke would come in.”

Three men were picked up by the police after a chase in the Knotts Lane area. Royal had burns on his hands and face, and complained he had hurt his hand.

The court was told Royal had 22 previous convictions and that a probation officer said he had a sneering attitude and “revels in criminality”. He said of Royal: “He is sound in mind and body and is repeatedly choosing to offend.”

He had no problems of addiction or homelessness and had a supportive family.

His parents had forced him to return a laptop taken from a house in Robinson Street, the first of Royal’s recent list of crimes. He denied burglary but admitted handling.

Recorder Parry said Royal deserved to be jailed for four years, but reduced his sentence for totality and his relatively young age.

He gave him two years concurrent on each arson charge, to run concurrently, and 12 consecutive months for the garage burglary with eight concurrent months for handling. He will serve half the time in custody and the remainder on licence. There will also be a £120 victim surcharge.