Jail for men who stole wine and champagne from hotel

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Damien Stearn and Robert Keeble took the bottles from the Beachcombers hotel and then – having got fellow passengers to pay their fares – caught an early-morning bus into town with the bottles wrapped up in four stolen pillowcases ‘like swag over their shoulders’, the court heard.

Outlining the case, Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit, prosecuting, said that because Jerseyman Damien Stearn had been destitute, Social Security had been paying for him to stay at Beachcombers. But he left two months later after being told he could not have friends to stay. However, he did not return his key when he left on 12 March.

Advocate Sarah Dale, defending Stearn, disputed this and said that her client had not left the hotel permanently. Because of anxiety issues, she explained, he often felt the need to ‘rough it’ and liked to sleep in the woods or a multi-storey car park. Stearn, she insisted, was simply taking a break.

She added that Social Security was continuing to pay for his accommodation, and he therefore still had a right to have a key and enter the property.

Both the prosecution and defence agreed that very late on the night of 15 March, or the very early hours of the following morning, Stearn returned to the hotel. According to Advocate Dale, he had come back to have a shower. He also brought his co-accused, Robert Keeble (40), with him.

Keeble’s lawyer, Advocate Julia-Anne Dix told the court he had moved to the Island in December 2019 ‘to get away from the negative atmosphere in which he was living’ in the UK. His life, she added, had been blighted by drug and alcohol problems. However, she said that things did not get much better for him here. A relationship he had formed had broken up and, from early March, he had been sleeping in Patriotic Street multi-storey car park.

The two men admitted they were drunk when they arrived at the hotel and could not remember much about what happened.

The court heard that while Stearn was sleeping, Keeble stole four pillowcases from the room and went to the bar. Although there were other people staying in the hotel, it was the very early hours of the morning and no one was around. The fridge was open and Keeble loaded the bottles into the pillowcases. It is estimated the haul was worth around £600.

Keeble then returned to the room. At around 6am the hotel chef saw two people walking away from Stearn’s room towards the road with what appeared to be white carrier bags. The chef could hear the sound of bottles clinking together.

Shortly afterwards Keeble and Stearn were captured on CCTV taking a bus into St Helier and, at around 11am, the police arrested them in the Parade Park.

Keeble told the police he could not remember taking the wine or leaving the hotel. He had two bottles with him but said he did not know where the rest were. He added that he may have ditched them in an alleyway near the bus station.

Passing the court’s sentence, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae told the two men that although Keeble may have been the ‘prime mover’, having entered the bar and loaded up the pillowcases, there was ‘no meaningful distinction’ between them and that they were ‘both equally responsible’. However, he added, there was a big difference between them when it came to previous convictions. Keeble was jailed for 16 months and Stearn for 14 months.

Jurats Jane Ronge and Rozanne Thomas were sitting.

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