Leeds judge's last chance for Castleford stolen car driver, 18, with 'absolutely appalling' criminal record

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An 18-year-old man with an “absolutely appalling” criminal record narrowly avoided an immediate prison sentence after a judge was persuaded to give him a final chance to change his ways.

Leeds Crown Court heard how an incriminating Snapchat video led to Stuart Bellwood’s arrest in connection with theft of a £21,000 Lexus during a burglary.

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The court heard the victim had returned home at around 5.30am on January 29 this year to find the car missing and evidence that there had been a break-in while his loved ones slept upstairs.

Later that day, a neighbour showed his daughter a Snapchat video clip which they had been sent of a man driving what was said to be a stolen car.

The daughter immediately recognised the fluffy dice hanging from the rear view mirror and identified the driver as Bellwood, a boy who had gone to the same school.

Bellwood jumped out of a window when police turned up at his home in Castleford, but he was soon found hiding near some bins and arrested.

Prosecutor Robert Galley said Bellwood had 18 convictions for 45 offences.

He had been banned from driving and was subject to a conditional discharge for stealing a motorbike at the time of the latest offences.

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The court heard that during police interviews, Bellwood had admitted to driving the stolen Lexus when someone else arrived with it on his estate.

Bellwood, of North Street, admitted driving a vehicle taken without the owner’s consent and driving while disqualified.

He denied burglary and theft of the Lexus, and it was agreed those charges will lie on file.

Kara Frith, mitigating, said: “I accept that he has an absolutely appalling record and particularly in relation to vehicle crime.

“He was a young man in the care system for a number of years. He took vehicles in order to get back home.”

She said there had been “real signs of change” since the latest offence as Bellwood’s girlfriend was expecting their first child and he was due to start a full-time job next week.

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Recorder Paul Greaney QC said: “You have a truly dreadful record of convictions and, moreover, a history of failing to comply with the orders of the court.

“But there are some signs that you might be making changes to your life and to put all of this behind you.

“Everyone deserves a chance at 18 and, in the circumstances, I’m prepared to give you one.”

Bellwood was given a six month jail-term, suspended for 18 months, with a three month curfew, 100 hours of unpaid work and 20 days of rehabilitation activity.

He was also banned from driving for six months and must pay a victim surcharge.