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Co-op knife robber went on crime spree after Folkestone Magistrates' Court blunder

A court typo left a knife robber free to strike at a Thanet supermarket after an arrest warrant was mistakenly dated with the year 3030.

Folkestone magistrates had ordered Kent Police to take drug addict Richard Champion into custody after he failed to appear in court to face an assault charge.

Richard Champion - psyching himself up for the robbery Picture: Kent Police
Richard Champion - psyching himself up for the robbery Picture: Kent Police

But when staff dated the arrest warrant more than 1,000 years in the future, it was thrown out by officers, leaving Champion at large and free to go on a mini crime spree last year.

It began with him going to a Co-op in Ramsgate - joined by an unidentified woman - and filling shopping baskets with £178 worth of meat and chocolate before fleeing.

Days later he went to a different Co-op in Westgate, where he was seen pacing erratically outside in a balaclava, armed with a 12-inch kitchen knife.

The unemployed heroin addict then tried bursting through the doors, but a shop worker pushed him in the chest and back onto Station Road.

It is unclear whether the staff member was aware of the blade at the time of the attack.

In a final desperate attempt to fuel his drug habit, Champion, of Oxford Street in Ramsgate, targeted Boots in Margate 10 days later.

He stuffed £700 worth of expensive creams, body lotion and make-up down his tracksuit bottoms and made-off.

Canterbury Crown Court. Stock picture
Canterbury Crown Court. Stock picture

But his hap-hazard crime-spree would be thwarted the next day, after police identified the same distinctive trousers he wore for each crime committed.

Under arrest, Champion spat all over the police van and threatened to soil inside the vehicle, prosecutor John Fitzgerald explained.

Judge Rupert Lowe commended the Co-op worker who tackled Champion before jailing the addict for to three years and three months at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday.

The court was told the shop employee had already been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time of the attempted robbery, which had made his symptoms worse.

Champion told the court he has sobered up and feels “disgusted” with his past.

“After everything now with Covid I see life is a gift Your Honour - I can’t block things out with drugs now," he said.

“I’ve had enough and I’ve been in prison on and off for seven years doing stupid things to buy drugs with.

“It hasn’t made me a millionaire and it hasn’t solved my problems."

Speaking by video-link from HMP Elmley, Champion described the hard work he is doing inside the chronically understaffed Covid-ridden jail.

Last year, KentOnline reported more than 90 men in a cell block at Eastchurch tested positive for coronavirus in November.

Though the Ministry of Justice remains tight-lipped about the virus-stricken prison, Champion lifted the lid on how dangerous it has become.

HMP Elmley
HMP Elmley

He told how inmates have been rushed to hospital as a whole block has been transformed into a Personal Isolation Unit (PIU) for Covid positive patients.

Wearing full PPE, Champion helps staff clean, deliver food to sick inmates, washes the landing and makes sure prisoners have everything they need.

Since cleaning up his act, Champion has “embraced” sobriety, been polite, helpful and showed pride in his work at the understaffed prison.

Mitigating, Michael Edmonds explained Champion worked under the dangerous conditions for six to seven hours a day.

Judge Lowe called Champion, who has 23 convictions,a “clearly intelligent and educated man” in the grips of drug addiction and commended his recent hard work.

He said Champion’s pacing before the attempted robbery and, how he was deterred by a simple shove, suggested he was “unprofessional in a criminal point of view.”

Champion was jailed after pleading guilty to two counts of theft, attempted robbery, carrying a blade and criminal damage at a previous hearing. His sentence includes one month for an assault and bail breach which triggered the botched magistrates’ warrant.

After sentencing, PC Adele Marsh said: "Champion callously pulled a knife on a man who was merely trying to do his job and the victim could easily have been more seriously injured.

"Kent Police has a zero tolerance approach to knife crime and will seek the prosecution of anyone found in possession of a bladed article, or who uses one to commit an offence.

"The prison sentence handed down in this case shows that the courts also take such offences very seriously and I am pleased this offender has been removed from the streets of Thanet."

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