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Earby dad-of-two jailed for East Lancashire lead thefts
11:00pm Friday 24th February 2012 in Earby
A FATHER-of-two who played a supporting role in a crime gang which targeted East Lancashire churches and a mill has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Stephen Potts, 39, provided tools and getaway vehicles for the collective, which planned to start a money-spinning ‘business’, stripping lead from landmark buildings, then weighing it in for cash.
Burnley Crown Court heard more than a dozen buildings, including St Mary’s Church, Nelson, and the former Trutex Mill in Clitheroe, were picked out in a four-month spree, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation.
Potts, of Bowhead Road, Earby, admitted conspiracy to steal between July and October 2010.
He had previously served a six-year sentence for robbery.
His partner, Lisa Gerard, 24, also of Bowhead Road, and mother of his two children, admitted the same charge and was give a four-month prison term, suspended for a year, with 40 hours community service.
She was involved in hiring a number of the vehicles, the court heard, but had no previous convictions.
Timothy Jacobs, for Potts, said the defendant and his partner were isolated and relied on each other. He had not offended since.
He added: “He is perhaps showing signs of growing up.”
Mark Stuart, for Gerard, said she did not participate directly in any of the thefts. She was in work and could be given a suspended sentence.
Passing sentence, Judge Jonathan Gibson told Potts he was not one of the principal organisers or leaders of the gang.
But Judge Gibson added: “This was organised crime and has to be dealt with accordingly.”
The judge said he accepted Gerard knew it was ‘something dodgy’ and that that was probably the extent of her knowledge.
Fellow gang members Lee Hartley 22, and David Raw, 20, both from Colne and said to be ‘labourers’ in the operation, were jailed last September for their roles.