Judge agrees criminal can go on summer holiday before he is sentenced

Laura FitzPatrick
A judge in Wales has agreed to delay the sentencing of Colin Watson, 51, by a matter of weeks - PA

Admitting to serious crimes usually lands lawbreakers straight in prison. But one lucky man has been allowed to spend a week in the sun on holiday before he faces his sentence.

A judge in Wales has agreed to delay the sentencing of Colin Watson, 51, by a matter of weeks as he prepares his remarks.

Judge Jeremy Jenkins agreed that Mr Watson, from Pontypool, can go on the holiday he booked to the Canary Islands in the meantime, warning him to come back and face prison, as he told him: "Don't let me down".

But reacting to the “bizarre” turn of justice, campaigners have suggested that it would confuse the process to allow a criminal to go on holiday and that it sends mixed messages to victims of crime.

On Monday the 51-year-old pleaded guilty to five offences, including possession of cocaine and a stun gun.

Cardiff Crown Court heard how the defendant was caught by police with cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis in Newport Town Centre whilst armed with a stun gun and an extendable baton in October last year.

Mr Watson admitted to possession of a prohibited weapon, having an offensive weapon, and possession of cocaine, ecstasy, and cannabis on High Street, Newport on a Saturday.

The five counts all carry strict penalties, with possession of Class A drugs, cocaine and ecstasy, each carrying a sentence of up to seven years in prison, or an unlimited fine, or both.

Possession of a weapon capable of discharging a noxious thing, or a stun gun, also carries a maximum of 10 years according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

But Mr Watson was spared an immediate prison sentence after his defence barrister, Hashim Salmman, asked Judge Jenkins for time to prepare a pre-sentence report, which was turned down by the judge.

At the plea hearing, Mr Salmman also asked for permission for his client to travel on his pre-booked summer break to Tenerife before being sentenced.

“There are unusual circumstances. He has a background worthy of exploration,” said Mr Salmman.

Judge Jenkins responded to the unusual request by setting a new date for the 51-year-old’s sentencing as “an act of mercy”.

But the unusual events in this case have been described as “extraordinary” by campaigners who feel it is confusing to allow Mr Watson to travel abroad.

Harry Fletcher, the victims' rights campaigner, said: "It is quite extraordinary and virtually unprecedented in my experience for a judge to adjourn sentencing of a convicted serious offender to allow them to go and enjoy a holiday.

“It’s also a bizarre message to send to victims of all crime who are concerned about sentencing in this country.”

Judge Jenkins said: "You have pleaded guilty to a number of very serious matters.

"I am trusting you. Don't let me down."

Mr Watson will appear in court on May 31 instead.

A spokesman for the judiciary said: “Judges take different factors into account when sentencing or setting a timescale for sentence.”