Notorious 'danger man' David Pleasants freed by Appeal Court judges
ONE of North East Lincolnshire's most notorious criminals has walked free from jail after a court appeal.
Infamous for a criminal career spanning two decades, most of which has been spent in prison, David Pleasants, 53, was released by Appeal Court judges yesterday.
As reported, he was responsible for a string of serious and audacious crimes, including robbery, blackmail, drug dealing and escape from custody.
In one of his escapes, he left a police constable with a fractured skull. Another attempt to escape left five officers injured and took three pairs of handcuffs to restrain him.
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In 1989, he featured on BBC Crimewatch as police appealed to the public to trace the thug after he had been on the run from court for three months.
At the court in London yesterday, Pleasants was told a sentence imposed on him at Sheffield Crown Court was "unlawful".
Dubbed the most ruthless criminal to ever have hailed from Cleethorpes, he was serving a sentence of five years which was imposed in 2009 for drugs crime, assault and trying to escape from custody.
That sentence had been reduced from seven years at appeal.
On top of that, Pleasants was also ordered by Sheffield Crown Court to serve another six-and-a-half years left over from a previous prison sentence – and it is that which the Appeal Court ruled was unlawful.
Following an investigation into the miscarriage of justice by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, three senior judges at The Appeal Court in London told Pleasants he was free to walk.
Allowing the appeal, Lord Justice Laws described Pleasants as a "career criminal" who had been in and out of prison over the last two decades, but Sheffield Crown Court's decision to make him serve the remaining 2,429 days of a blackmail plot sentence was "unlawful".
In 1994, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to commit burglary and escaping from lawful custody.
In 1994, Leicester Crown Court heard that he had been the mastermind behind a series of terrifying robberies across Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Pleasants and his gang graduated from burgling businesses to robbing thousands of pounds from a Securicor van after spraying CS gas in the driver's face on Freeman Street.
In November 1992, they broke into Gemini Joinery, on Oxford Street, and stole tools before breaking into the post office next door. Here they smashed through the wall behind the safe, taking £37,249 in cash, stamps and postal orders, after cutting it open with a blow torch.
Although not part of the raid, he had masterminded the break-in.
He was released on licence, but was back behind bars again in 2001 when he was given a 14-year sentence for conspiracy to blackmail.
That came after a terrifying attack in the early hours of April 19, 2000, on supermarket boss Clive Hobbs and his wife Suzanne. They were woken and had their hands clamped around their mouths.
A gang of masked men had entered their home in Scothern, near Lincoln, after cutting through their back door. Mr Hobbs was held in the living room of the house while the rest disappeared with his wife and baby daughter. The gang told him how they wanted him to take money from the cash machines at the Sainsbury's branches where he was a manager. One asked him: "Who do you love more, your wife and child or Sainsbury's?" He was threatened with a gun and forced to collect more than £320,000.
Meanwhile, his terrified wife and two-year-old daughter were taken to a remote farmhouse in Bardney, Lincolnshire, and forced into a small pantry under a flight of stairs which had been converted into a makeshift cell.
After hours trapped in the tiny room, police arrived to rescue them. Pleasants was found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail and was handed a 15-year sentence
He was released again in 2008, but got involved in drugs crime and was ultimately given the five-year term for possession of heroin with intent to supply, assault causing bodily harm and attempted escape.
The offences occurred when he was stopped on the M1 motorway near Sheffield and police discovered almost half-a-kilo of heroin in the car.
His escape attempt took place after he feigned unconsciousness and was being wheeled out of Rotherham General Hospital by nurses flanked by police.
Pleasants was stopped by a constable and tried to "bite his way out of the situation," the Court of Appeal heard in an earlier hearing, injuring the officer.