Judge tells Stratford thief: Get job before children

Mugger pounced on victim in early hours at bus station

A judge told a benefit-claiming robber not to think about starting a family until he had got his life sorted out and found a job.

Nathan Harper, 21, of Louise Road, Stratford, was spared jail for a late-night attack when he and a gang of friends robbed two men on the way home.

Michael Wiles and Michael Dolan were walking past Stratford bus garage at 5am on March 28 last year when they were surrounded by the gang.

The Old Bailey heard Mr Wiles was left cowering in a nearby shop after he heard shouts of: “Let’s merk them”, and “Let’s shank them.”

Harper, described as the ringleader, approached Mr Wiles and put his hand on the victim’s pocket.

He was handed a mobile phone which he passed to an accomplice, but when he was given the victim’s wallet he rifled through it before leaving it in front of the shop in which Mr Wiles was hiding.

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Harper, who had been drinking heavily, mumbled an apology before making off. Mr Dolan’s mobile phone was also stolen by one of Harper’s friends who has never been caught.


Harper, unemployed and on benefits, said he was training to be a plumber at the time of the robbery but said he had to give it up because of the “stress” of the court proceedings.

He admitted two counts of robbery in July last year but a second man denied the charges and was cleared after a trial.

Harper implored with Judge Brian Barker not to send him to jail. Speaking from the dock, he said: “I have been keeping out of trouble your honour.

“I have started settling down with my girlfriend, we have just had our one-year anniversary and we are trying for a baby. I have been looking for work.

“I was doing a course in plumbing but due to stress of what was happening I had to stop it, but as soon as this is over I am going to try and get back on it.” Judge Barker described the attacks as a “disgraceful piece of behaviour”. Handing him an eight-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, the judge advised: “It seems like you have a responsible girlfriend though if I were you I would not think about starting a family until you are settled down. I hope this gives you a chance.” Harper must comply with a 9pm-3am curfew for three months and attend an offenders activity programme.