Court shows mercy for Romford teenage getaway driver for raid spree gang

An 18-year-old from Romford who was the getaway driver for a gang that went on a £500,000 rampage breaking into homes and stealing cars was spared jail today.

Instead, Jack O’Brien, of Navarre Gardens, Romford – the last of a gang of three to be sentenced – was told by a judge to “grow up” and was made the subject of a two year community order with two years supervision. He was also ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work and to complete a 25 day training course.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told that in all 60 houses throughout south Essex were raided by the gang, mostly at night while the occupants were asleep. O’Brien was said to have been involved in 10 of the raids.

The raids took place between October and December 2011 and the gang was only interested in the car keys which they then used to drive away away vehicles parked outside. The vehicles ranged from high end Mercedes, BMWs and Range Rovers to VW Golfs.

O’Brien pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle in respect of the those offences and also admitted a separate count of burglary in Chigwell, on 4 March 2013, and asked for six other offences of burglary or attempted burglary between February 2012 and March 2013 to be taken into consideration.

He has been remanded in custody since July waiting for his case to be heard.

Last month another gang member, Frankie Pearce, 21, of Mawney Road, Romford, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle between 1 October and 10 December 2011 and was given a two year prison sentence, suspended for two years.

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The third defendant, Aaron Prainer, 24, of Glenmore Way, Barking, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal, and received nine months jail, to run concurrently with a 40-month sentence he is already serving for a similar offence.

Today Recorder Patricia Lynch QC told O’Brien as she sentenced him that she accepted that his role was driving the vehicles away and not breaking into the homes.

The court heard that the 60 homes targeted included homes in Brentwood, Hutton, Westcliff, Grays, Romford and Epping. Others in addition to O’Brien and the other two who have also been sentenced were said to have been involved and to have netted over £500,000 worth of vehicles.

The judge also made a confiscation order against O’Brien in the nominal sum of £1 for an agreed criminal benefit of £35,000.

Mitigating, Michael Edmunds said O’Brien’s time on remand had been “a salutary lesson”. He had associated with people older than himself and had been trying to impress them.