A judge described conditions in Britain as ”Dickensian” after a homeowner returned home to pick up his wallet and found a Romanian family had moved in.
Northampton Crown Court heard how the shocked occupant found defendants Mihai Dediu, 30, and his wife Laura, 24, taking his possessions out of the cupboards.
The couple had their young child with them and insisted they were moving into the house after being told it had been empty for some time.
But the two-bedroom end-of-terrace house in Southfields, Northampton, was still occupied when the would-be squatters forced their way in on December 7 last year.
The court heard the astonished homeowner had left his home but returned soon after when he realised he had forgotten his wallet.
Judge Richard Bray said: ”The owner comes back at 5pm and there’s an
unknown car parked in his drive and the lights to the house are on.
”He goes in and finds these two defendants and, wait for it, a young child. We’re going back to Dickensian times it appears.
”When challenged, the defendants say they own the property and are just moving in and that the male defendant was going to alter the locks as part of that process.
”Then an unidentified person attends to take the child away. What’s going on here?”
The Romanian couple were arrested when police arrived and initially charged with burglary, but later admitted a lesser charge of causing criminal damage.
Judge Bray added: ”This is a bizarre case.
”I must be the most experienced person in this building and in 26 years, I cannot remember a case where burglars have taken a young child with them to carry out the burglary.”
Ben Gow, defending, said the couple had trouble paying their rent and had been told they could live at the address ”by a man they met in a shop”.
They maintained they had no intention of acting dishonestly or stealing.
But Michael Waterfield, prosecuting, said they were effectively caught red-handed.
He said: ”It may have been that’s what the defendants were told, but once they got into the house, they would certainly have realised it was still occupied.
”They were taking clothes from the cupboards.”
Mr and Mrs Dediu, now living at a different address in Southfields, pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage to the locks and windows after the burglary charge was dropped.
Judge Bray sentenced them both to 12-month community orders with 100 hours community service.