No jail sentence for man who tried to hide stolen car of Gloucester rugby player
By Court reporter | 15th July 2021
A crook who tried to hide Gloucester and England rugby star Ollie Thorley's Mercedes just hours after burglars had stolen it from the player's Cheltenham home has walked free from court.
Ollie Thorley's leased car, worth £32,355, had false number plates fitted to it by the time it was tracked to an address in Pershore, Worcestershire, where 'fence' Zac Mitchell, 21, had parked it on Feb 11th last year, Gloucester Crown Court was told on Wednesday (July 14).
Mitchell, of Lysander Court, Ely Street, Stratford upon Avon, pleaded guilty to handing stolen goods, driving whilst disqualified, driving without a licence, having no insurance and possession of cannabis.
He was sentenced to two years jail, suspended for two years, and ordered to undertake 30 probation programme sessions and carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.
He was also banned from driving for a year.
The court was told that Mr Thorley's car was stolen from outside his home by thieves who broke in and took the keys as he slept on the night of Feb 10/11.
Prosecutor Caighli Taylor said: "When Mr Thorley got up in the morning, he noticed that a window had been forced open during the night and that his car keys had gone missing from the kitchen.
"His Mercedes car, valued at £32,355, a lease vehicle, was no longer on the driveway. Inside the Mercedes were Mr Thorley's belongings including some of his rugby gear and a breathalyser.
"The following day a tracking device was used by Gloucestershire Police, and it located the vehicle to an address in Pershore in Worcestershire. The occupant of the house said that Zac Mitchell had asked if he could leave the car there for a short period of time.
"CCTV footage showed that Mitchell had driven the vehicle onto the driveway at 2.45pm that day with cloned registration plates being displayed.
"An analysis of Mitchell's phone confirms that he had taken possession of the vehicle at around 2pm on February 11. He was a disqualified driver and as such had no driving licence or insurance.
"When Mitchell was located and arrested a few days later he had a small amount of cannabis on him."
Simon Rippon, defending, said: "Obviously this has crossed the custody threshold - therefore the only matter for me to mitigate on is whether any sentence could be suspended.
"It is accepted that Mitchell has an issue about complying with court orders. But since this offence was committed in February 2020, he has not re-offended.
"He has started to settle down with a new partner in his life. He is also busy working in a paid job while he matures, and he has put his offending behaviour behind him."
The judge, Recorder Anna Midgley, told Mitchell: "You had planned this. You approached the home owner in Pershore to seek permission to store the vehicle on the drive. You were identified by the police after they had viewed the property owner's CCTV and witnessed you dropping off the Mercedes.
"You have a poor record which includes a multitude of driving and drugs offences - but nothing previously for handling stolen goods.
"A pre-sentence report suggests that your offending has been caused by impulsive thinking, without maturity. However, you have taken positive steps to address your offending. You have stopped taking drugs and have obtained a job and you are in long-standing stable relationship.
"Therefore, there is a realistic prospect of rehabilitation - which means I can suspend the custodial term."
*Ollie Thorley, 24, became Gloucester Rugby's youngest ever player in the professional era when, aged 17, he partnered former England star Mike Tindall in the centre for a match against Northampton Saints in November 2013.
He won the RPA Young Player of the Year Award for the 2018/2019 season and the Premiership Rugby Try of the Season Award.
In the 2019/2020 season he was the Gallagher Premiership top try scorer with 11 tries.
He has played for England Under 18s on the summer tour in South Africa, England U20s when he was part of the 2016 IRB Junior World Championship team and in October last year, he made his senior international team debut when he took part in the Six Nations match against Italy that secured the title for England.
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