A ‘professional burglar’ who was caught after leaving his blood on a smashed window pane has been jailed for his part in a raid on Sandiway Golf Club in which thieves made away with around £25,000 worth of goods.
Thomas Sweeney, of Huyton, was given a four-year prison sentence at Chester Crown Court on Monday (November 24), following the hit on the golf club’s locker room in June.
The court heard that the 44-year-old crook - who earlier pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary - employed a modus operandi of dressing smartly to attend premises, duping people into thinking he had a genuine purpose there when in reality he was looking for items to steal.
Nicholas Williams, prosecuting, said the counts were a series of ‘high-value commercial burglaries’.
Mr Williams told the hearing that Sweeney, who has 12 such previous convictions, participated in the burglary of the Chester Road golf club’s locker room on the night of June 9.
Tools were stolen from the groundsman’s hut and used to gain entry to the room and to force open 71 lockers.
Around £25,000 worth of items belonging to 45 individuals was stolen and £4,500 worth of damage was caused.
But Sweeney claimed his role was simply to break the window and receive the loot through it.
Having cut himself on the broken glass, he left his DNA at the scene which led to his arrest.
Sweeney also targeted schools in Widnes, stealing an English teacher’s laptop from her classroom at Bankfield High School.
On December 5, 2013, he pilfered 11 laptops worth £581 from Wade Deacon High School.
Then in May this year he took a laptop, purse and Blackberry from a member of staff at Riverside College.
Sweeney’s defence barrister, Lloyd Morgan, acknowledged his client’s prolific offending but said he was a changed man after becoming a father this summer.
“That proved a real turning point in his life,” Mr Morgan said. “Through his guilty pleas he has expressed, perhaps for the first time in his life, the effect that his offending has on other people.
“By the time the latter two offences were committed in May and June this year, the defendant had ceased both his drug and alcohol addiction but still suffered financial difficulty.
“His benefits had been stopped and he took to doing perhaps all he knew.”
Mr Morgan added that Sweeney did not mastermind the burglary of Sandiway Golf Club and had ‘limited, if any, gain from it’.
Judge Roger Dutton described Sweeney as a ‘professional burglar’ who for many years had deceived institutions into thinking he had some authority being on the premises in order to steal valuable items.
He said of the golf club raid: “This is an extremely serious commercial crime. You committed a very serious, well-planned commercial burglary with a team of burglars.
“You say that you played a minimal part. Well, you were close enough keeping watch to leave your blood on the window and that caused you to be caught.
“I do not believe for a moment that you played a minimal role.”
Judge Dutton sentenced Sweeney to four years for the Sandiway Golf Club burglary and two years and eight months for each of the other three counts, to be served concurrently.
Five other offences were taken into consideration after Sweeney admitted them that morning.