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Gloucestershire Business News

First case at Nightingale Court in Cirencester

Gloucestershire's new Nightingale Court at Cirencester got to work for the first time yesterday (January 25) to help clear the massive backlog in cases that has built up during the pandemic.

Covid-19 has exposed the weakness of the current criminal justice system and highlighted the need for investment and yesterday on its opening day the Cirencester Courthouse dealt progressed five cases after county Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl handed over the keys.

The former Cirencester Magistrates Court adjoining the town's police HQ has been in mothballs for nine years but was brought back into use as one of a network of emergency extra courts that are being commissioned across the country.

Over the past few months minor maintenance work has been undertaken to bring the building back to a useable condition so it can be leased back to the Government for court use.

Yesterday, the Recorder of Gloucester, Judge Ian Lawrie QC, dealt with two judicial reviews, heard the preliminary details of an appeal and adjourned a case that had been committed for sentence by Swindon magistrates.

In the afternoon he heard the case of a notorious Cheltenham shoplifter who went out thieving again just six days after her last release from prison.

Judge Lawrie heard that Alisha Parke, 32, of no fixed abode, stolen £137 worth of baby clothing from Next in Cheltenham on September 18th last year.

Prosecutor Nicola Wood said that as well as occurring less than a week after Parke's release, the theft was also in breach of a criminal behaviour order imposed on Parke in May 2018 to prevent her from entering any retail premises in Cheltenham or entering a specific area of the town centre.

Miss Wood said: "Parke entered the Next store in Cheltenham at 12.45pm and was seen by a member of staff putting items of baby clothing into her bag.

"Parke was challenged over this, but she pushed the woman out of the way and tried to leave the store.

"Security officers detained her at the exit and she told them, 'Josh made me do it,'. The 14 items of clothing, valued at £137, were recovered."

Guy Wyatt defending said: "Parke comes before you today as somewhat of a success story. She has not reoffended since last September and has been free of controlled drugs for 21 months.

"She has only been recalled to prison for failing to comply with her bail conditions by not keeping in contact with probation.

"She has had a very unfortunate upbringing. At the age of 12 she was taught by her mother to shoplift to fund her drug habit, a life which inevitably she got drawn into. Her stepfather is the one who bullied Parke to steal the baby clothes on this occasion.

"But when she initially left the clutches of her mother, she found it difficult to cope in the real world and resorted to thieving and because of her deafness she has been taken advantage of by other people.

"When she was released from prison in September she needed money to survive because her mother had taken her money from her and she turned to the only resource she knew, shoplifting.

"Parke has a poor memory and she is not very organised, hence the missed appointments with probation. She needs more professional help in keeping these appointments and some real help with her offending."

Judge Lawrie warned Parke: "I'm going to take a quantum leap in adjourning sentencing on you today as I want to explore a number of different sentencing options that will help you.

"Your case is taxing me to the hilt. However, it is a real achievement that you have stayed clear of drugs for so long.

"I accept that you have a behavioural disorder arising from your upbringing, including the ongoing bullying by your stepfather.

"Prison is not the place for you as custody does not solve anything. If I lock you up you will be released without any work being done to improve your situation.

"But if you fail to adhere to the orders imposed against you, or do not comply with the relevant authorities I will be forced to send you into prison.

"However you need to start making an effort yourself when you are released from prison at the end of the week and work with both probation and Change Grow Live.

"There are a lot of people trying to help you and I'm prepared to take a chance. Don't let me down."

Parke will be sentenced by Judge Lawrie at Gloucester Crown Court on February 22.

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