July 17, 2009

Garden-cleaning couple cleared of theft

A British judge has criticized the prosecution of a couple who cleaned the garden of an abandoned house as a waste of taxpayers' money.

Richard and Lynne Small, both 38, said they were trying to help the environment by clearing garbage from the garden of the abandoned house near their Hull, England, home, but they were shocked when four officers arrived on the scene and placed them under arrest, the Daily Mail reported Friday.

The couple, whom police accused of stealing from the house, said they were released without charge after five months of legal wrangling. The Smalls said they took a pair of old boots, a hose pipe, a plant, half a shoe lace and used paint tins from the cluttered garden and disposed of the items at their own home.

Judge Paul Isaac entered not guilty verdicts on the theft charges for both.

This is all unfortunate. It does seem to me to bring this matter to the crown court is something of a waste of public resources, Isaac said. Whatever the rights and wrongs, your defense that you have taken these items believing them to be abandoned would likely have been accepted by any sensible jury.