During a sentencing hearing held on June 20, Sheffield Crown Court heard about the life Adam Billington had led as a teenager, including being exploited by travellers.
His barrister Ben Robinson described how Billington had experienced a difficult few years after his mother left when he was 16-years-old, leaving him with responsibility for his younger sisters.
Recorder Happold then expanded: “Because of the situation you were in, you began to work for a family at the travellers’ site, and it’s said you were exploited. You were living in a shed and were forced to undertake various unpleasant activities including committing crimes in order to eat and live.”
Mr Robinson described how Billington has turned his life around over the last year, staying out of trouble, finding employment in a warehouse and securing stable accommodation with his girlfriend and her parents.
Recorder Happold sentenced Billington to 15 months, suspended for two years, ordered him to complete 120 hours of unpaid work as well as 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and to pay £500 in compensation.
He told Billington: “I’m very narrowly persuaded to suspend it [his prison sentence]...you are young, you have kept out of trouble for about a year.”
Recorder Happold said Billington could ‘very easily’ have been sent to prison, and urged him to continue on the ‘track’ he is currently on.
Billington was arrested and charged after and an accomplice were seen parked up in an estate car, close to the entrance of New College in Hurst Lane, Auckley, Doncaster, on April 15 last year.
Summarising the facts of the case, Recorder Happold described how the car’s presence attracted the attention of a site assistance manager at the college, who subsequently approached Billington, aged 20, and his accomplice at around 11.40am.
"He saw two men putting a bicycle into the boot, there was already one in there...you were one of those two men,” Recorder Happold told Billington, of Tennyson Avenue, Sprotbrough.
He added: “When he asked what was going on, you replied: ‘What do you f***ing think we’re doing’?”
Prosecution barrister, Amy Earnshaw, said it was at this point that Billington approached the staff member with an angle grinder and told him: ‘If you get any closer you’re going to get this,’ referring to the tool he was wielding.
The staff member retreated due to 'fearing he would be attacked,’ Recorder Happold said, adding that the staff member took down the registration number of the vehicle Billington was in and police stopped the car around an hour later.
Billington and his accomplice, who is under 18 and therefore cannot be named for legal reasons, were arrested at the scene, and £397 in cash was found in the vehicle, but Billington claimed it was ‘dole money’ he had ‘saved up’.
The bicycles, which belonged to two autistic students at the college, were not in the vehicle by this time and have never been recovered, the court heard.
One of the bicycles was estimated as being worth £2,339 when it was bought new, while the other one was valued as being worth £449 when new.
Billington, who has a criminal record of five offences from two convictions, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and to one count of threats with a bladed or pointed article at an earlier hearing.