An OAP thief who was electronically tagged aged 68 has won a landmark court ruling – banning security officers from entering her house to check on the device.
Rosemary Collier, 68, was been ordered by a judge to wear the tag after she admitted “plundering the wealth” of a seriously ill 86-year-old neighbour and friend.
Her four month curfew order meant she had to stay inside her home in Tankerton, Kent, from 7pm to 7am between July and November last year.
After the equipment was installed she also signed an agreement with security company G4S allowing staff access to her house to monitor the electronic equipment.
But Collier allegedly refused to answer either her front door or telephone three times in October last year.
The security firm began breach proceedings against the crook which could have resulted in Collier being sent to prison.
But a judge at Canterbury Crown Court has now ruled the G4S monitoring agreement has no force in criminal law – and has thrown the case out.
Judge Michael O’Sullivan – on his last day sitting as a judge before retiring – said Collier had not breached the original court curfew order, which had not included a clause allowing G4S staff to make home visits.
His ruling could have widespread implications because a G4S court enforcement officer revealed that “Electronic Monitoring Agreements” are used by all staff country wide.
He said: “In my judgement the order of the court is the governing factor for conditions involving the curfew.
“There was not a condition in the (court) order saying (Collier) had to answer the door when G4S visited them.
“Unless there is legislation which empowers (G4S) to impose their own conditions – which I very much doubt – then the defendant is not bound by them. The order of the court prevails.”
He said it follows that that there was no lawful authority for Collier to be brought back to court for breaches of her curfew order.
The judge said that when G4S officials arrived at Collier’s home in July she was asked to sign up to the second agreement.
It read: “Your staff have told me what I have to do to keep the rules of my monitoring. I understand what will happen if I do not keep to any of these rules.
“This could mean that I go back to court or to prison.”
Collier was also given a handbook designed by G4S in which it was explained: “From time to time we will also need to contact you in person.
“This will either be over the phone, on the box or by visiting your curfew address. It is important you answer the phone or allow us into your curfew address.”
The judge added that if G4S wanted extra powers they would have to come to the court first to ask rights to phone or visit to be included in the court curfew order.
He threw out the case and granted Collier her costs for the two day hearing.
Collier and her 77-year-old partner Ian Bartlett became the oldest couple in Britain to be tagged after then stole from an elderly neighbour.
Canterbury Crown Court heard the couple took advantage of stroke victim Patricia Hardy while she lay in a hospital bed.
Their scam was discovered when nurses alerted police after spotting the couple – who have been together for 20 years – rifling through Mrs Hardy’s handbag and locker.
Detectives went to their home in 2010 and picked up a puzzle book – which Collier tried to snatch away. Inside the book were the couple’s attempts to forge Mrs Hardy’s signature.
The despicable pair were given 10-month jail sentences – suspended for a year – ordered to repay the #2,100 and tagged until November 2012.
A G4S spokesman said: “We have a duty to inform the relevant authority when an individual refuses to co-operate with our monitoring officers.
“We will continue to bring these kinds of incidents to the notice of the relevant authorities who will decide what action to take.”