A WOULD-BE imam and another man said to have been part of a plot to rob a betting shop walked free from court after a judge branded them “idiots.”
Mohammad Abdul Ghafaar and Wajid Khan, now both 20, were said to have been captured on CCTV “staking out” Tote Sport in Moorgate, Bury, before it was targeted in an armed raid in September 2009, Burnley Crown Court had earlier been told.
Ghafaar, of Merton Street, and Khan, of Kent Street, both Burnley, had earlier admitted to conspiracy to rob the shop, between August 18th and September 2nd 2009. They had owned up during the second week of a recent trial. Neither had any previous convictions.
Ghafaar is said to regularly lead prayers at his local mosque as part of a team of imams and may one day become one himself. His barrister told the court how the defendant had now finished his Islamic training and was beginning to play a role in his community.
The two defendants were each given 52 weeks in jail, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work by Judge Beverly Lunt. Mr Hugh McKee (prosecuting) had earlier told the court Ghafaar and Khan had gone into the shop across the road from the bookies around 10-30am and left about 11-30am. They then entered Tote Sport, one of them picked up a pen and the other got a betting slip, about 20 minutes before the robbery.
Mr Tim Storrie (defending Ghafaar) told the court his involvement in the offence, serious as it was, was “an extreme example of youthful folly.” The defendant’s family was supportive. He had now finished his scholarship training and was often asked to lead mosque prayers. Ghafaar, who had just started a joinery course at college, may be getting married in the not too distant future.
Mr Michael Blakey (defending Khan) said he had matured somewhat since the date of the offence. He had not offended since. The defendant was going back to college in two weeks.
Sentencing, Judge Lunt told the pair they should have pleaded guilty at the very beginning.
“You were idiots,” she said. The judge added in every other respect, the defendants behaved responsibly, properly, were well thought of and were good members of the community and society.