JUDGE: POLICE PROBE DELAY ‘DISGRACE’

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A SENIOR judge has criticised police for their handling of a violent mugging in Heanor which left a teenage girl traumatised.

Judge Andrew Hamilton described delays in arresting the two thugs responsible as “a disgrace” and temporarily halted the case at Derby Crown Court to demand why it had taken so long to catch up with Stewart Larvin, 18, and Luke Newton, 17.

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The pair had made a call on a mobile phone stolen from their 17-year-old victim in Heanor but it took officers seven months to interview the woman who received the call – even though the injured girl took the number to police when it appeared on her bill. Larvin and Newton attacked the girl as she walked along Roper Avenue in April last year. They punched her in the face, threw her over a wall, tore out her earrings and stole her phone. The girl was left with bruises and cuts to her face and described in a statement to the court how she was still afraid to venture out alone, the court heard.

The judge was told it had taken officers seven months to trace and interview a woman who had received a call made on the stolen phone in which the pair had “bragged” about the attack. Judge Hamilton said: “There’s been a considerable lack of police initiative. It’s absolutely appalling, it’s a disgrace.”

Speaking after the hearing, a police spokeswoman said there had been no DNA evidence and, when police called the stolen mobile, it was not answered. The owner of the phone was identified in August but not interviewed by police until November because she was not in when officers went to her house. Larvin and Newton were finally arrested in December. The spokeswoman said delays in some leads being followed up had been caused because staff were on annual leave.

Inspector Mark Pickard, chairman of Derbyshire Police Federation, also warned after the case that cuts to police budgets would have a detrimental impact on investigations.

The pair both admitted robbery. Newton, of Petersfield Close, Nottingham, was made the subject of a two-year detention and training order. He was told he would serve half that period before being released on licence. Larvin, of Ragdale Road, Nottingham, was sentenced to two years in a young offenders’ institution. He was also told he would only serve half the sentence in custody.