Bag snatch jail sentence appeal fails

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AN alcoholic drug user who left a pensioner seriously shaken when he tried to steal her bag has failed in his appeal against his prison sentence.

In rejecting James Steel’s appeal on Tuesday, three judges at the Court of Appeal said his three-year jail sentence was ‘not a day too long’ for such a serious offence.

Steel, 53, of St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds, tried to wrench the 70-year-old’s bag from her grasp as she walked from church to a chemist’s on November 26, 2010.

But she kept a firm grip on the bag until, with help from members of the public, Steel’s attempt was foiled.

The woman was so distressed she refused to make a statement to the police, but other witnesses stepped forward so Steel could be charged. He was jailed at Ipswich Crown court in February.

On Tuesday, his lawyers argued in front of Mr Justice Hickinbottom, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Openshaw that the sentence was ‘manifestly excessive’.

But Mr Justice Hickinbottom said the fact that the victim was in her 70s and vulnerable was a seriously aggravating feature of the offence. He added that Steel, who was drinking the equivalent of three litres of strong cider a day, had a long list of offences to his name.

“Although she doesn’t appear to have suffered any significant physical harm, a significant degree of force was used upon her,” he said. “Such manhandling for such a lady is far from insignificant.

“Furthermore, the victim was greatly frightened and disturbed by the event.

“Those who target the vulnerable with violence can expect severe sentences.”