Teenage thief who stole £1m in 665 raids is arrested again - just weeks after a judge spared him jail

Judge Christopher Ball set Bradley Wernham free, but the 18-year-old has now been arrested again

Judge Christopher Ball set Bradley Wernham free, but the 18-year-old has now been arrested again

When Bradley Wernham was spared jail and even given a rent-free flat to live in despite admitting to being one of Britain's most prolific thieves, friends revealed the teenager was 'cock-a-hoop'.

The extraordinary deal was struck because the 18-year-old said he was turning over a new leaf after committing nearly 700 raids worth over £1million - although critics were stunned at the leniency and one MP branded the sentence a 'joke'.

The wisdom of Judge Christopher Ball's decision was being questioned again today after the teenager - whose trademark crimes included stealing luxury cars - was arrested on suspicion of committing two burglaries.

One of the alleged crimes involves the theft of a Porsche.

Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns, who spoke out last month after learning Wernham and his girlfriend were being relocated to a secret location in the Essex town, said today: 'If he is found guilty of the charges then it just confirms that he hoodwinked the authorities.

'It makes the judge's original sentence even more pie in the sky and unrealistic than I thought. Leopards rarely change their spots.'

Wernham was described as a 'one-man crimewave' after he admitted 20 burglaries and asked for another 645 offences to be taken into account.

He had already been convicted of 26 offences - bringing his known total to 691.

This meant his crime spree - which began when he was 12 and generally involved breaking into churches, homes and pubs and stealing cars in or around his home town of Harlow - averaged one offence every three days.

But Essex Police and local councils were convinced he had decided to put his criminal days behind him.

Operating together under the banner of The Safer Harlow Partnership, a 'crime reduction' organisation, they informed Judge Ball they would cover Wernham's first month's rent until he could start claiming benefits and pay them back.

The judge, sitting at Chelmsford Crown Court in October, accepted the guidance and allowed Wernham to move into the flat.

The teenager's only punishment was a 12-month supervision order, 150 hours of community service and a six-month 11pm-6am curfew.

He told Wernham: 'You are beginning to grow up and seem to be determined to stop [offending] and, because you assisted the police so much over a long period of time, I am prepared to deal with this in a wholly exceptional way.'

At the time, Conservative MP Mr Burns described the ruling as 'misguided do-gooding philosophy'.

Another critic was one of Wernham's victims, 38-year-old Tim Marshland, an engineer whose £2,500 motorbike and helmet and boots were stolen.

'If you don't get locked up for 700 burglaries, what do you have to do? It's totally ridiculous,' he said.

'I am amazed the police have spoken up for him and given him a house.

'He's gone from being one of the most prolific burglars in Britain to being a reformed character in just a few months - that doesn't ring true to me.'

Another victim wrote to a local newspaper: 'What the hell are Essex Police doing? He takes £17,000 of my property - none of which has been recovered, I might add - and this is his reward.'

Wernham was arrested on Friday in Chelmsford by Essex Police and handed over to officers in Hertfordshire, where the alleged offences are understood to have taken place.

Judge Ball - who was criticised in 2008 for failing to jail a 17-year-old boy who had sex with a 13-year-old girl, telling him 'boys will be boys' - failed to respond to a message left at his home last month.

Essex Police declined to discuss the latest allegations, saying they could not comment on individual cases.

A Hertfordshire Constabulary spokesman said: 'An 18-year-old man has been arrested in Chelmsford and questioned in connection with two burglaries carried out between December 2 and 3.

'He has been bailed to return to a police station in Hertfordshire on December 9.'

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