Career criminal's God get-out

A CAREER criminal with a long history of burglaries and thefts is set to escape going to jail after telling a judge he has found God - again.

A CAREER criminal with a long history of burglaries and thefts is set to escape going to jail after telling a judge he has found God - again.

Prolific offender Anthony Eames, 37, faced three years behind bars for his latest crimes until he told a court he had turned over a new leaf after turning to religion.

Judge Peter Jacobs said he would consider letting him walk free if a place could be found for him at a hostel which helps reformed villains.

The move was today welcomed by a Church of England spokesperson who said that prison was not always the best way to deal with offenders.

But it is not the first time Eames, of Norwich, has claimed to become a new man after finding God.

He insisted he had become intensely spiritual, quit heroin and was attending church every week when he was on trial two years ago as well.

Most Read

Eames appeared in court yesterday to admit breaking into a city centre bar and stealing money as well as assaulting a florist while trying to take cash from the shop.

He also asked for another 41 offences, including burglaries, non-dwelling burglaries and thefts, to be taken into account.

But the wily crook insisted that during his three weeks in custody before being sentenced he had started a new life by turning to God.

Eames told Norwich Crown Court: “There aren't really words to describe the journey I have been through. The pain I inflicted on others and on my own life.

“There aren't any words I can say to you about the impact of active addiction on someone's life, especially on those who are out there trying to do right in their own lives.”

He admitted stealing £400 from Bedfords bar on June 30, trespassing in the Orgasmic bar and stealing six bottles of alcohol on March 12.

Eames also pleaded guilty to trespassing into Orgasmic on June 30 with the intent to steal and assaulting a florist from Stevenson's Florists on June 20 and stealing £10.

He had pushed the florist aside when she was blocking his escape, causing her to fall to the floor and hurt herself.

Eames had also broken the window of one of the bars to gain entry, the court heard.

He said he had become a born-again Christian 12 years ago but had “slipped away” from the faith until he re-found God while being held in prison this month.

“I have chosen to put my energy into healing myself. There isn't one night I haven't got down on my knees and prayed. I'm trying to build a foundation,” claimed Eames.

“I'm lucky to have my girlfriend and her unconditional love. I'm willing to do whatever it takes.”

Judge Jacobs said he had been thinking of jailing Eames for three years.

But because of his plans to change he was considering a two-year suspended sentence if the offender can find a place at the House of Genesis hostel in Sprowston.

Judge Jacobs added: “There's no way I'm releasing you until I'm satisfied. I'm willing to have House of Genesis investigated.”

He asked Eames if he would like to try the option of rehabilitation through the House of Genesis, if a space was available, and he agreed.

The case was adjourned while Eames' defence barrister Charles Myatt looks into the possibility.

Judith Blackman, assistant chief officer from the Probation Service, said the sentencing decision was down to the judge.

She said she could not comment on this case but added: “There comes a time even in an offender's life when they do recognise that they have made a change.

“Prison isn't always an answer to prevent re-offending and if there is a constructive alternative that maybe the best way to prevent re-offending.”

In May 2003 Eames was jailed for 10 months for breaking into a music shop and stealing a keyboard worth £2,100.

In May 2006 he was given a one-year conditional discharge with £25 costs after admitting stealing a handbag.

During the trial two years ago Eames pleaded he had had a spiritual awakening, given up heroin and was attending church every week.

House of Genesis is a charity which aims to rehabilitate the homeless and ex-prisoners to “live the Christian life in a way that is relevant and comprehensible”.

It was opened four years ago by two Christians who had “witnessed the struggle to find safe accommodation”.

The hostel is committed to a Christian family ethos and has a small group of male residents living there along with the project leader, his wife and their son.

The project director from House of Genesis said she was unable to comment on this case.

But the Rev Jan McFarlane, spokesperson for the Diocese of Norwich, said: “I think there are many of us who are convinced that putting someone in prison is not always the answer.

“Often there are deeper problems to be tackled and unless this happens, the individual concerned will simply re-offend on release.

“If Anthony Eames really does want to turn his life around then it's good that he's being given the opportunity to do so.

“Christianity is all about new beginnings and the opportunity to say sorry and to start again.”

The case was adjourned with a date for final sentencing to be fixed.