Justice campaigners called for an end to short prison sentences today after an habitual thief aged just 37 was jailed – for the 73RD TIME.
Career criminal David Fairbairn has been in court on 96 occasions since he was a teenager and been sent to prison every year of his adult life.
He has been jailed for dozens of petty thefts including shoplifting and violence but each time has only served a number of days or weeks behind bars.
His latest crime saw him try to rob a petrol station armed with a PEBBLE – just hours after he was released from prison for the 72nd time.
Alcoholic Fairbairn, of Exeter in Devon, has terrorised his community with endless thefts, fights and robberies.
But each time he has been caught he has only served brief sentences before being released to re-offend – often within hours or days.
He has now been jailed for two years and six months at Exeter Crown Court after he stole £280 during a raid at a Texaco garage.
Despite his appalling criminal record spanning 20 years it his his longest ever sentence and campaigners say the justice system is failing the public.
Andrew Neilson, assistant director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said short sentences don’t work and cost the taxpayer £530million a year.
He said: ”Short sentences create more crime – they don’t create solutions or safety.
”Of the 53,333 people jailed in 2008 for six months or less, 74 per cent were re-convicted within a short time of release.
”Most served an average of six to weight weeks at a cost of £530million to the Ministry of Justice.
”We need to consider whether we can afford to keep sending the addicted and those with mental health needs to prison over and over again, when it demonstrably has very little impact on future crime.
”Individuals with problems such as alcoholisms should be receiving treatment part of their sentence. Not only are community sentences more effective at reducing re offending, they also save money.”
Fairbairn carried out his latest crime on July 10 a day after being released from Exeter Prison, where he had served his 72nd prison sentence, and given a £46 discharge grant and travel warrant.
He spent the money on a drinking spree with a friend and then visited a hospital because he was so drunk before being released three hours later.
Fairbairn then walked into a garage at 1.49am and was caught on CCTV threatening terrified cashier Stevie Harper with a rock in a night-time raid.
Prosecutor Ann Hampshire said Mr Harper was working alone at the Texaco garage when the defendant walked in.
She said: ”Mr Fairbairn entered the shop, two customers were already on the premises, he waited for them to pay and leave before he approached the counter.
”He immediately demanded all the money from the till, repeatedly making that demand and held in his hand a rock, which he was waving around.
”His demeanour was sufficient to cause Mr Harper to fear he might be struck. It’s clear from Mr Harper’s statement that he has been traumatised by these events.”
Fairbairn left with £280 but Mr Harper pressed the panic alarm and police found the culprit walking along the road with the money in his pocket.
Fairbairn admitting a charge of robbery and the court was told he had previously served scores of short sentences and suffered alcohol and drug problems.
Recorder Jeremy Wright told him: ”This was a very serious crime. You went into this garage, wielding a stone as a weapon, which is a frightening thing to do.”
Defence counsel Warren Robinson said his client had been ”very co-operative and honest” with police, and had never intended to harm Mr Harper.
He added that Fairbairn had convictions for violence but this was not usually against strangers.
He said: ”It was not a sophisticated crime. He was on CCTV but did not attempt to disguise himself during the robbery.
”The item he picked up is believed to be a garden decorative stone with a smooth surface, just larger than a hand. He carried this out because of his drug habit and immediate financial needs.”
The judge told Fairbairn he hoped he would get help for his various problems during his sentence – which is his longest yet.