Magistrates’ blunder allows launderer to go free

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon Magistrates Court Swindon Magistrates Court

A PROLIFIC offender walked free from court after magistrates blundered over how he should be sentenced and prosecutors were too slow to complain.

Lee Goodchild was told he should have served more than two years for selling almost £50,000 worth of stolen goods through his online store.

But the 32-year-old had already served longer on remand than a judge could give him because of mistakes.

Goodchild's latest criminal operation was uncovered when his then girlfriend Carla Farmer, 25, was caught shoplifting in early January.

When officers searched the home they shared they found they had been operating an Amazon trading account under the name Cheap And Cheerful For You.

During the 11 months leading up to their arrest the online store had more than 2,000 transactions with a turnover of £49,342.30p.

Colin Meeke, prosecuting, said magistrates refused to send it to crown court for trial, ruling their maximum sentencing powers of six months were adequate.

Again, after the pair were convicted, prosecutors asked for the case to be committed for sentence, but the bench refused.

But as there was an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act the case had to go before a judge, but the magistrates' rulings meant he was restricted to their powers.

That meant the maximum sentence he was allowed to pass would be just six months, rather than the 14 years a judge can give.

Mr Meeke said the CPS appealed against the magistrates’ ruling at a judicial review but did so too late Graham Bennett, for Goodchild, of The Broadway, Moredon, said his client had been in custody since July. The court heard he had numerous previous convictions.

Farmer, who is living away from her ex in a refuge, was put on an 18-month community order.

Both had been convicted after a trial of converting criminal property, a money laundering offence.

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