07:50 Thursday 02 January 2014

Jewel thief bail shows 'farcical' justice system


10/12/13 Valerie Peeler who had stuff stolen by a neighbour - Stanton Road, BurtonValerie Peeler 10/12/13 Valerie Peeler who had stuff stolen by a neighbour - Stanton Road, BurtonValerie Peeler

THE family of a widow who was conned by a woman she considered a ‘kindred spirit’ have hit out at the ‘farcical’ justice system which let her walk free to enjoy Christmas and New Year.

Patricia Brown was put behind bars for 12 weeks after admitting stealing treasured bracelets from neighbour Valerie Peeler on December 18. But Brown, 54, was released on bail just before Christmas, pending an appeal hearing, leaving her free to enjoy the festive period just two doors away from her victim.

Mrs Peeler, 66, only discovered she had been released after reading about it in the Mail.

Her daughter Lucy Wileman said: “Mum is absolutely devastated. She doesn’t think she’s being taken seriously. We’re so angry as a family that the woman who conned mum was let out for Christmas.

Brown, of Cameron Close, Stapenhill, took one bracelet which had been given to Mrs Peeler by her late husband, and another which had been given to her on her 21st birthday.

Burton Magistrates’ Court was told she took the items because she was having money troubles, and that she was ‘traumatised’ by what she had done to someone she thought of ‘like a sister’.

Brown befriended Mrs Peeler after the victim moved to the area to be closer to her family following the death of her late husband.

When she was sentenced, magistrates said she had breached the trust of a vulnerable woman.

At the bail hearing, Steve Hennessy, defending, told the bench that in normal circumstances the appeal hearing would have already taken place, but it had been pushed back because of the festive holiday.

He also pointed to her ‘fragile mental state’.

However, Mrs Wileman said her bail showed the justice system to be ‘farcical’.

“For a judge to take on her feelings as opposed to the victim’s feelings is atrocious.

“After the sentence, as far as we were concerned, Mum was safe, and would be ok for Christmas. She had a chance to sit back and relax, and she had started to get over things. Now, she feels worse than she did before. It seems ridiculous,” she added.

A date has not been revealed for the hearing.

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