A DROITWICH man who was on the run when three accomplices were sentenced last year for stealing precious metals has narrowly avoided being sent to jail.

At Gloucester Crown Court Connor Maguire, of Drovers Green, Droitwich, was given an eight month prison term, suspended for 18 months.

The 25-year-old had been at large in January last year when the three other men involved in the theft at the Forest Vale Industrial Estate, Cinderford, Gloucestershire, were sentenced for their roles in stealing 21 bags of precious metal powder valued at between £23,000 and £55,000 from BASF Metal Recycling Ltd.

The theft happened on October 18, 2017 and the offenders were all caught red handed by police patrolling the area.

One of the offenders, a 21-year-old from Evesham, received an immediate 12 months jail term last year while the other two defendants were handed suspended sentences.

Prosecutor James Le Grys told the court yesterday that the BASF plant receives scrap vehicle parts and mills them to extract precious metal in dust form.

It has a high value and is sent to the United States for processing.

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On Oct 15, 2017, the prosecutor said, the defendants travelled to the industrial estate, cut through a fence and started loading sacks with the dust.

Police checking the area saw the broken fence and some sacks behind it but no sign of anyone so kept checking back during the night until they saw two cars, one of which had three men in it.

They kept observation and later arrested all four defendants - Maguire and one of the other man in Newtown road, Cinderford. The mens’ faces and clothes were blackened by the dust they had been handling.

Maguire told the officers he had got involved because he had been threatened and was scared.

“He said he had been told it would be a quick £50, easy and no risk,” Mr Le Grys told the court.

“He said he was threatened with a flick knife and felt he had no choice.”

The judge was told Maguire had no previous criminal convictions and had not offended again in the two-and-a-half years since the offence.

Sarah Jenkins, defending, said the offence happened at a time when Maguire had gone off the rails following the death of his mother and was drinking and taking drugs.

“He slipped into a period when he was quite unstable,” she said.

“He did not realise how valuable this material was.”

Judge Ian Lawrie QC told Maguire he had been an "idiot" to get involved and he had "by the skin of your teeth skimmed past an immediate prison sentence".

At the start of the hearing the judge had asked Maguire to back off from the phone camera he was using to Skype into the hearing from his home.

“You have a very impressive nose ring but it is looming large - a bit too close,” said the judge.

Later, when he addressed Maguire to pass sentence on him and asked if he could hear him all right over the Skype link, Maguire said “I can hear you mate.”

Judge Lawrie said “You can call me judge rather than mate.”

As well as the eight month suspended jail sentence Maguire was also ordered to attend 30 days of probation programmes such as thinking skills as part of an 18 months community order.

And he was ordered to pay £150 costs.

Finishing the hearing, the judge told Maguire “Good luck, stay safe.

"Keep to the order and I don’t want to see you ever again.

"Don’t take that personally.

"I don’t want to see you for the best possible reasons.”

Said Maguire “Take care, bye bye.”