A thief who took a car with a toddler in the back seat has been freed after his child abduction charge was dropped. Car thief Jeremy Hector, 47, had targeted a Renault Scenic while a mother was making a delivery in her hometown of Tiverton in Devon on Saturday 1st June. The woman left her daughter standing outside the car, and her five-year-old nephew and a third child in a car seat in the back of the unlocked vehicle.
Hector pulled the five-year-old out of the car but failed to notice the 14-month-old boy still in the car. He drove for a mile and a half around the centre of Tiverton before returning to the same place and dumping the child on the pavement, telling passers-by the child had been abandoned.
Hector was restricted to a maximum sentence of six months and banned from driving for four years by Recorder Mr Michael Hubbard, QC, at Exeter Crown Court, who described the maximum sentence available to him as a ‘farce’.
Hector was told he was ‘exceedingly fortunate’ not to be jailed for several years after it was revealed that he also took cars in Tiverton, Willand, and Cullompton. Exeter Crown court also heard that Hector had 291 previous offences mostly for motoring offences and driving while disqualified.
There was also some evidence to suggest he knew the baby was still inside the car before he drove away.
Hubbard told Hector: “You are exceedingly fortunate. If the law was not as it is at the moment you would be heading off for a few years inside but the court’s powers are restricted as they are. I give you absolutely no credit for the plea because your fingerprints were found on the cars. For goodness sake get a grip on yourself before Parliament changes the law.”
He endorsed Hector’s licence and added: “That is a farce when the maximum sentence is as it is.”
Mr Jonathan Barnes, prosecuting, said “there is some evidence that he must have known the child was in the car. He drove it away. He drove it down the road and then deposited the child on the pavement.”
The owner of the car was delivering Meals on Wheels to elderly residents in King Street, Tiverton. Mr Barnes said the owner returned to find her car gone and her nephew in a distressed state.
After speeding off in the Renault and abandoning the baby, Hector then went onto crash into a bollard, causing £1,745 damage.
At the time, Barnes was serving a 37 month ban imposed just five months earlier. During a spree of robberies, he also took a Vauxhall Astra from a pub car park at Sampford Peverell and an Isuzu from Kentisbeare. He took a Land Rover Discovery from a farm at Cullompton, and crashed it on the A 362 at Rackenford. He also stole £101 of diesel when he left a filling station at Willand without paying.
Mr Nigel Wraith, defending, said Hector took the cars so he could live in them after splitting up with his girlfriend and moving out of his home. He said that Hector was “not aware when he took the vehicle that a 14 month old child was in the car.”
The mother said after the incident, “I blame myself for what happened sometimes, although it took someone to actually steal the car. I felt relief that my son is back but I feel angry too that someone did that… I was in hysterics, I nearly collapsed.”