Burglar avoids lengthy jail sentence after stealing from Woodford Green children's hospice store in Romford
PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 04 September 2019
A 42-year-old burglar who broke into a Woodford Green children's hospice shop in Romford will be released from custody today after being handed a prison sentence so short he had already served more than half of it in custody.
Lee Semain, of no fixed address, broke into Haven House Children's Hospice store in South Street sometime between 5pm on Saturday, August 17 and 9am on Sunday, August 18.
He smashed open a glass door and stole goods worth a small sum of cash.
Due to the damage caused by the break-in, the store was forced to close for a day and a half.
This resulted in a loss of earnings for the hospice which is based in High Road, Woodford Green.
When police arrested Semain outside Romford Station he was found with a screwdriver and was charged with burglary and possession of an offensive weapon.
Semain pleaded guilty and was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court today (September 3).
Prosecutor Martin Whitehouse acknowledged that there was a "nasty element" to the burglary but doubted that Semain targeted the shop knowing that it belonged to a children's hospice.
In Semain's defence Robyn Murdo-Smith told the court that though the defendant was currently homeless, if he were released he would be able to stay under the supervision of a relative at their home address.
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"[Semain] left school with no qualifications," said the barrister who defended Semain free of charge.
"He suffers from epilepsy. He's had a drinking problem for a considerable amount of time.
"About three or four years ago he started to live on the streets and he's tried to do everything he can to get into accommodation.
"He has been amazingly candid with officers in admitting he had the screwdriver to protect himself and he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity."
In an open letter to the perpetrator, staff at the hospice expressed how the break-in had impacted them emotionally.
They wrote: "Our staff and volunteers are so proud of their shop with many giving up their time to support the hospice and ensure the shop is open.
"To them this feels like someone has broken into their own homes."
Semain was given two sentences of 28 days' imprisonment to run concurrently.
Judge Paul Southern concluded that as Semain has already been in custody since August 19 and served half of his jail term, he was to be released from court today.
Councillors from Waltham Abbey set up a crowdfunder for the hospice following the burglary.
Visit justigiving to donate to the charity.