A judge has blasted a GMP investigation into a prolific shoplifter who repeatedly targeted an Asda supermarket. Michael Gormley, 31, was spotted time and time again by a security guard at the Harpurhey store entering through the main door, taking hundreds of pounds-worth of alcohol, and walking out via the fire escape.
The guard reported the thefts to GMP officers, and offered CCTV footage of some of the incidents, but despite this, he was bailed, which allowed him to commit further offences. Describing one time, the guard said Gormley, of Harpurhey, walked into the store ‘rubbing his hands together’.
It wasn’t until months later, following a 12-minute high speed chase which resulted in officers being forced to crash into the Citroen Picasso he was driving to stop him, that he was eventually caught.
Now Judge Anthony Cross QC has raised major concerns about the handling of the investigation, stating that ‘no real police work was done’ to arrest Gormley. Jailing him for two years and four months, he demanded that a report was done into what happened and how it could be avoided in the future.
James Preece, prosecuting, told Manchester Crown Court that on April 29 last year, the security guard saw Gormley come in, walk up to the alcohol aisle and take 10 bottles 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.
Addressing Mr Preece, Judge Cross QC said: “This man had gone into Asda, stolen from them twice and was back in on June 20. This time he walked up to the shop assistant dealing with the cigarettes, asked for two sleeves of cigarettes worth £189, picked them up and walked out.
“He was not charged, and the offence was not taken into consideration. On June 21 he went back but was refused entry.”
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, he was arrested for unrelated offences and interviewed, but gave ‘no comment’ and was released on bail with a condition not to enter the shopping centre. The offences put him in breach of his post sentence supervision, as he had recently been released from prison, the court heard.
For the theft offences, he was released on ‘technical bail’, meaning he had been granted bail but not released into the community as he was taken to court. GMP said he was released on bail to allow them to properly view the CCTV from Asda.
Gormley failed to attend court and a bench warrant was issued by Manchester JPs. He was bailed 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 for the police to arrest a persistent thief who clearly was targeting Asda in Harpurhey,” Judge Cross QC demanded.
It wasn’t until March 1 of this year, 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.
Gormley was detained and cautioned, to which he replied: “Whatever.” The arresting officer said that it was ‘fortunate that there hadn’t been a collision or injuries which could have resulted in a fatality’.
He was remanded into custody and subsequently pleaded guilty to offences of theft, dangerous driving, driving without insurance and driving without a licence.
Gormley was said to have an ‘appalling record’ of offences including thefts, burglaries and attempted burglaries. Three days before the first shoplifting offence in April, he had been handed a community order for shoplifting back in August 2020, the court heard. This was later revoked and he was jailed for 12 weeks.
Mitigating, barrister Thomas McKail said his client had struggled with using drugs in the past and had become associated with ‘pro-criminal peers’ who led a lifestyle that he became involved in. Of the dangerous driving, he said it was ‘fortunate nobody was seriously injured’.
“Or killed, Mr McKail,” the judge said. “This was in broad daylight, people were pushing prams, there were workmen standing on the corner of the roadside. It’s fortunate for him and those people, he could have hit them in a collision, as well as the safety of the police officers giving chase.”
“He is remorseful, Your Honour,” Mr McKail replied. “He doesn’t seek to minimise that the driving was dangerous and reckless. He has spent time during his time in custody reflecting on his behaviour. ”
Sentencing, Judge Cross QC said he could only pass sentence on the offences of which Gormley had admitted, namely two offences of theft and the driving offences.
Requesting the attendance of Superintendent Helen Critchley, along with the officer in the case and the custody Sergeant in court, he 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 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.