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No cut in sentence for car theft illiterate teen

PUBLISHED: 10:58 17 September 2009 | UPDATED: 17:08 25 August 2010

A NAÏVE and near illiterate teenager caught driving a stolen Mercedes the wrong way down a one-way street failed to get his prison sentence cut.

A NAÏVE and near illiterate teenager caught driving a stolen Mercedes the wrong way down a one-way street failed to get his prison sentence cut.

James Saunders, 19, of Powercroft Road, Sidcup, was sentenced to five months after he was pulled over by police last January who discovered the number plates on the £6,000 car had been changed, and he had no insurance or licence.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal heard last Thursday that Saunders could barely read or write and only last year admitted handling stolen goods and was held in a young offenders' institution for five months.

Lord Justice Rix said Saunders began to use cannabis and drink heavily after the recent breakdown of his marriage and was suffering from low self-esteem. The court heard that police discovered the car had been stolen in a burglary.

Saunders worked in the building trade after leaving school with two GCSEs - one a grade C in maths - despite his problems with reading and writing. But Lord Justice Rix, sitting with Mr Justice Tugendhat and Judge Michael Pert QC, said that the offence was a serious one and his sentence appeal should be dismissed. He said: "Of course the courts are cognisant of the fact that, as cars become more difficult to steal on the street, the criminal choice of burgling houses in order to steal keys and take away the cars has become a common offence.

"The Crown Court judge referred to the need for deterrence during his sentencing remarks.

"The offence was aggravated by the fact that Saunders was driving the car without a licence and without insurance. He is apparently a naive man.

"Nevertheless, we think that, in all the circumstances, a sentence of five months was a merciful sentence.

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