‘Jail is no longer any fun’ says van thief’s lawyer in plea for lenient sentence

A 41-year-old Lerwick man pleaded guilty to stealing a van – despite having no recollection of the incident. 

Craig Nelson, of Staney Hill, was today (Thursday) sentenced to seven months imprisonment, after admitting the theft of the van along with tools worth more than £5,000. 

The van had been parked in St Olaf Street, Lerwick, when the theft took place on 1st September 2019. 

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard that Nelson was identified after his DNA was found on the van’s steering wheel.

Defence agent Tommy Allan told the court that Nelson’s drug use at that time could best be described as “chaotic”. 

He said Nelson suffered from agoraphobia after being assaulted in his own bed, while living in Doncaster, and as a result he tended only to visit public places while under the influence of drugs. 

Mr Allan said Nelson had “no recollection” of the theft and gained no benefit from it. 

Since being imprisoned for a separate offence,  Mr Allan said his client had stopped using illegal drugs and was on a methadone prescription to tackle his opiate addiction. 

Mr Allan said the earliest Nelson would be released from his current sentence was next April – and urged Sheriff Ian Cruickshank  be lenient in any custodial sentence. 

He said now that Nelson was in his 40s, “jail is not what it used to be for him”.

“It’s no longer any fun,” he said 

“In particular, Covid restrictions have made it an even less pleasurable experience.”

Sheriff Cruickshank replied: “I didn’t think jail was supposed to be fun.”

Mr Allan added that whereas Nelson as a younger man could “take it in his stride” –  that was no longer the case.

“The penny has dropped for him,” he added.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie described the offence as an “opportunistic theft”.

He said the van, which was used for work by an engineer, had been left parked with its key in the ignition. 

“Clearly there was a time in not all that distant history, when people could do that in Lerwick with a degree of confidence, but that’s no longer the case,” he said. 

Mr MacKenzie said the total cost of the tools came to £5,875, not including VAT. The owner had also spent a further £1,000 on a new key and lock. 

Sheriff Cruickshank ordered that Nelson’s seven months sentence commence immediately. 


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