A man jailed for a ‘chilling’ burglary in which he threatened a terrified family with a knife got work as a steward at Brighton and Hove Albion's Amex stadium just months after his release, a court heard.
Vernon Baker served nine years in prison and was released in June 2017. But just a few months after he began working as a bouncer.
A Crown Court judge said yesterday it was ‘alarming’ that such a criminal was able to get a licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA), the Government agency which issues bouncer badges.
Folllowing the court case, the SIA has denied that Baker was ever able to obtain a licence.
Just seven months after his release, he returned to a life of crime. Baker, 41, of Appledore Close, was jailed for a second time at Lewes Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday, November 26) after pleading guilty to being involved in three more burglaries.
Masked man with a knife: what happened in 2008?
Dressed in black and wearing a mask, Vernon Baker turned up outside up outside a family home where a child slept, prosecutor Jordan Franks told the court.
He appeared outside the window and the couple inside initially thought it was a practical joke.
When they saw the knife they realised this was no prank, the court heard.
Baker was arrested and convicted of aggravated burglary with an associated blade. He served nine years in prison, getting parole in June 2017.
Baker qualifies as a bouncer
Baker began training for his SIA badge later that year and was qualified by November 2017, the court heard.
He picked up work as a steward for Premier League side Brighton, including at their Amex stadium.
A spokesman for the club said: "Mr Baker worked for the club on five separate occasions, the last of which was in March of this year.
"He was employed via a third-party security contractor the club uses for part-time staff.
"As he held an SIA licence, he fully complied with the government’s recommended pre-employment security checks, and we were not aware of his pending trial or of any previous criminal record.”
Their spokesman said: “The SIA is the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry in the United Kingdom, reporting to the Home Secretary under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act (2001). One of our key roles is to protect the public.
“We do this by operating a robust licensing process to determine whether a person is suitably qualified and ‘fit and proper’ to hold a SIA Licence.”
A return to burglaries
The court heard Baker turned back to burglary to provide for his new family,
He was convicted of being involved in three house burglaries in Chalvington that took place in January 2018. Jewellery was taken and victims left afraid in their own homes, but Baker denied that he entered the homes himself.
Carl Howard, a fellow steward that Baker met at the football ground, was Involved in one of the burglaries as a driver.
Baker was jailed for six years and four months yesterday for the January burglaries.
Judge ‘alarmed’ at how Baker could get an SIA licence
Judge Janet Waddicor, sentencing Baker yesterday, said: “You are a man with a shocking record.
“In 2008 you were sentenced for an offence of aggravated burglary. The circumstances of that are chilling.
“You terrified the couple. You had a knife which you were holding in a threatening manner.
“A child was asleep upstairs.”
She continued: “After coming out of prison having served nine years for aggravated burglary he is able to train and qualify for an SIA licence?
“I find that alarming.”
Baker’s defence barrister Sophie Evans said: “It does mean a lot to him to see the effects of his crimes.
“It has obviously hurt people and he has shown remorse.
“He really is making steps to try and improve his life.”
Baker was jailed for six years and four months.