Blaenavon firefighter loses bid to escape jail sentence
4:05pm Friday 25th October 2013 in Gwent news
A veteran firefighter who was jailed after promising "beers for everyone" if a policeman friend helped get him out of a criminal damage prosecution today failed in a Court of Appeal bid for freedom.
Shey John Watkins, 36, of Lower Woodland Street, Blaenavon, was facing potential criminal proceedings for allegedly damaging a wall when he tried to persuade his friend to get him out of trouble.
He admitted doing an act tending to pervert the course of justice and was jailed for four weeks at Cardiff Crown Court earlier this month.
Facing automatic dismissal from his job of 12 years due to the sentence of imprisonment, he today took his case to the Court of Appeal in London.
But, despite questioning whether the dismissal of an experienced firefighter was in the public interest, two senior judges today upheld Watkins' sentence.
Mr Justice Henriques, sitting with Judge Anthony Morris QC, said the court had to uphold the integrity of the justice system.
The court heard Watkins was being investigated for allegedly damaging a plaster wall in a house where he had lived when he made his mistake in October last year.
He got in touch with police officer friend, Byron Emerson-Thomas, and asked him if he could help, promising "beers for everyone".
In text messages, Watkins and the policeman, who was jailed for six weeks for the same offence and misusing police computer material, chatted about getting another officer to help out.
But instead, both ended up in prison.
Describing the "irony", Mr Justice Henriques continued: "It is now accepted by the prosecution that Watkins would not, in fact, have been cautioned had the full facts been known by the prosecution.
"The file would simply have been marked 'no further action'."
A pre-sentence report said Watkins had simply acted impulsively without thinking of the consequences.
His lawyers today argued that the sentence was too tough. He was a tireless supporter of his community and had twice given CPR to members of the public, they said.
If the sentence was allowed to stand, he would automatically lose his job, which is his only means of supporting his family, the judges were told.
Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Henriques said: "It has always been the case that any member of the public who attempts to persuade a police officer to subvert the criminal process, either by offering money or by offering a favour, must necessarily lose their liberty in order to ensure that our criminal justice process runs straight and true.
"We do not consider the sentence either wrong in principle or in any way excessive.
"We have considered whether or not we could properly suspend it. We are entirely satisfied that we could not.
"We do question whether a trained firefighter must necessarily and inevitably lose his job in circumstances such as this.
"We question whether the public interest demands it. That, however, is a matter for others."
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