Greater Manchester Police have responded to comments made by a judge following their investigation of a prolific Asda shoplifter. Earlier this week, Michael Gormley was jailed for 28 months after he was caught raiding Harpurhey’s Asda after he was released on bail.
The 31-year-old was eventually caught following a 12-minute police chase which saw officers forced to crash into a Citroen Picasso he was driving as a means to stop him. He has since pleaded guilty to two offenses of theft, dangerous driving, driving without a license and without insurance.
Judge Anthony Cross QC blasted the investigation and raised major concerns about the handling of the case, stating that ‘no real police work was done to arrest’ Gormley. He demanded that a report was done by GMP into what happened and how it could be avoided in the future.
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Superintendent Helen Critchley, of GMPs City of Manchester district has responded, stating that the force welcomes the sentence that was handed down and acknowledges the comments made.
In a statement, she said: “I welcome the sentence handed to Gormley by Judge Cross. The manner of driving displayed in this case was incredibly dangerous and put members of the community at risk.
“I thank my colleagues from the Roads Policing Unit who brought the vehicle to a stop without harm to anyone. I acknowledge the comments made by the judge and, as requested, will provide him with a full written report.”
James Preece, prosecuting, earlier told Manchester Crown Court that on April 29 last year, a security guard saw Gormley come in, walk up to the alcohol aisle and take 10 bottles of booze worth £290 before running out of the store without paying, which was all caught on CCTV.
Days earlier he had reported that Gormley had taken four bottles of alcohol worth £142, again leaving through the fire exit, but he was not arrested or charged.
On July 22, Gormley returned again to the store, and stole five bottles of champagne worth £239, and was caught on CCTV. Reporting the theft to the police, the guard told the officer that Gormley had been ‘targeting the store for several months’.
Later, on September 26 2021, he was arrested for unrelated offenses and interviewed, but gave ‘no comment’ and was released on bail with a condition not to enter the shopping center. The offenses put him in breach of his post sentence supervision, as he had recently been released from prison, the court heard.
He was charged with theft on November 26 and was placed on ‘technical bail’, however he failed to appear in court on December 29 and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest by Manchester JPs.
He was danced to an address on Holtby Street, just minutes away from the Asda. “This man had just been released from jail and was then released on bail. The police had red hot evidence. I want to know what efforts were made by the police to arrest a persistent thief who clearly was targeting Asda in Harpurhey,” Judge Cross QC demanded.
It wasn’t until March 1 2022, that officers in an unmarked police car on Rochdale Road became aware of Gormley driving the Citroen. “The Picasso began to accelerate rapidly along a road governed by a 30-mile-per-hour limit, at which it got up to speeds of 60-miles-per-hour,” Mr Preece said.
In dashcam footage, the red Citroen was seen overtaking cars, going through red lights, narrowly avoiding pedestrians and driving on the wrong side of a dual carriageway against oncoming traffic.
The chase was eventually brought to an end after officers deemed the driving to be a ‘threat to life’ and made a tactical decision to drive into the car to stop it from continuing.
Requesting the attendance of Superintendent Helen Critchley at the hearing on Tuesday (April 19), along with the officer in the case and the custody Sergeant, Judge Cross said: “I simply do not understand how it’s 2022 and we are in the position of people reporting a crime to GMP, where there is overwhelming evidence and no action is taken.
“This defendant has committed crimes in Harpurhey for years and apart from a couple of visits to the home to get him, no real police work was done to arrest him. So he was free to continue to commit crime as he wanted to.”
He added that it was ‘quite frankly miraculous’ that nobody was injured during the police pursuit. Gormley, of Holtby Street, was jailed for 28 months and banned from driving for six years.
Gormley was arrested on September 26, 2021 and charged with theft on November 26, 2021. He failed to appear in court on December 29, 2021 and was arrested by a GMP patrol on March 1, 2022, GMP added in a statement.
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