Judge in warning to foreign crooks
A judge has warned eastern European criminals that British courts will not be a "soft touch" as he jailed a Romanian gang for a £1 million gold robbery campaign.
The ten gang members came to the UK specifically to commit the crimes and had not done a day's legitimate work while here, said Old Bailey Judge Timothy Pontius.
He gave them sentences totalling 82 years and 10 months despite the young crooks pleading guilty and having no previous convictions. They were also told they would be deported after serving their sentences.
The judge said the gang had entered the UK as European Union citizens with the intention of robbing jewellery shops of large amounts of high-quality gold. Only a fraction of their haul had been recovered from the six raids or attempted raids - leaving the robbers with £1 million.
Judge Pontius said: "None of the defendants appear to have done an honest day's work while they were here. All will be deported, and rightly so."
He said there were fears an influx of people from Romania and Bulgaria when restrictions are lifted next year would lead to an increase in crime.
And the judge warned: "Anyone who comes to the UK - irrespective of whatever part of the world - wanting to commit serious crime, must clearly understand such abuse of the hospitality of this country and its people must be seriously punished.
"It follows that the more grave the crime, the more severe the retribution will be. No one should think for a moment that courts in the UK will be a soft touch."
The gang carried out seven raids in six months, emptying display cabinets and fleeing in minutes before police could respond to alarms. They were caught after police kept watch on a makeshift campsite they were using on waste ground near the A12 in Essex.
The gang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob.