DISTRESSED relatives cried out in court when a Leigh soldier was sentenced to eight months at a Young Offenders’ Institution after admitting handling a guitar stolen during the Manchester riots.
Liam Bretherton – described as one of the fittest men in the forces and who had served briefly in Afghanistan – had driven into the city centre with friends to have a “nosey” at the trouble, but ended up buying an electric guitar from a looter for just £20.
He attempted to sell the £1,600 left handed Les Gibson to a local musical instrument shop for £800 two days later. But the manager of Heybrook Music in Charles Street immediately recognised the instrument as one that was likely to have been taken when Manchester’s Dawson’s Music was attacked by a mob and stripped bare.
He quoted him a price, but tripped the automatic security lock on the door when he returned with the guitar, trapping the 20-year-old inside, Prosecutor Gavin Howie told Manchester Crown Court.
Bretherton, of Larch Road, with a previously unblemished record, admitted the offence at an earlier hearing and was given eight months custody at a Youth Offenders Institute.
On sentencing, which was greeted by howls of anguish from relatives seated at the side of the dock, the court heard, he will also now be discharged from the military service with the Seventh Parachute Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery.
Defence counsel David Temkin told the court the offence was a “dreadful blip” in Bretherton’s behaviour.
He said: “He had no involvement in the violence or burglary but he went to Manchester city centre with friends out of curiosity.
“Those who know him inside and outside of the Army describe him as a man of honesty and integrity.
“His Commanding Officer has talked about his exemplary record in the forces”.
But Judge Anthony Gee QC said that despite Bretherton’s record he stood before him as a man who was involved in two incidents of criminality in handling the guitar and then attempting to sell it.