By JR on Saturday, October 15, 2011
I deserved all I got, says the burglar beaten by his victim: Case against father thrown out when criminal refuses to testify
When businessman Steve Coupland fought off a violent burglar breaking into his van, the Crown Prosecution Service insisted he should be charged. But after a 12-month fight to clear his name, the case has collapsed – because career criminal Matthew Higgins refused to give evidence against him, saying he ‘got what he deserved’.
Mr Coupland, who has never previously been in trouble with the police, had seen his van targeted by thieves on 13 occasions – including the two nights before the incident – and tackled the burglar only after he was attacked with a crowbar.
Higgins, 43, who has an appalling history of violence, ended up being badly beaten by Mr Coupland and both men were arrested by police. Prosecutors refused to accept that Mr Coupland, 54, was lawfully defending himself and his property.
But the CPS has been forced into a humiliating climbdown by Higgins’s refusal to testify against him. Mr Coupland was cleared after no evidence was offered against him on the day of his scheduled trial at Hull Crown Court.
The father of three, who runs a cleaning company, had been so convinced a jury would see sense that he not only denied grievous bodily harm with intent but also ignored legal advice by refusing to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
‘I’m over the moon it’s finally over,’ he said. ‘This case has wasted a lot of time and money. ‘I have worked hard all my life and have never done anything wrong. I was just protecting my property.
‘I was facing years in prison, but I was determined to fight it. They said I had gone over the top, but I had to do what I had to do to stop that happening to me. The system is weighted in favour of the criminal – they would have preferred me to bring him in for a cup of tea and hand over my wallet.’
Just hours before the incident, Mr Coupland had spoken to police about attempted break-ins on his van the previous two nights in September last year.
The van, which contained nothing of value, was parked outside Mr Coupland’s house in Hessle, Hull. At 10pm he was alerted by the noise of Higgins trying to force open the van with a crowbar. He shouted at the thief and went outside to confront him.
But Higgins hit him on the arm with the crowbar and Mr Coupland – who, at 5ft 3in tall, is ‘at least six inches’ shorter than the thief – fought back with all his strength. ‘Both of us ended up on the floor,’ said Mr Coupland. ‘I was hitting him and trying to get the crowbar off him, which I managed to do. My blood was boiling.’
Higgins lost part of his ear in the fight and Mr Coupland believes this happened when he threw the thief against a pillar. Eventually he was able to restrain Higgins until police – called by his wife and a neighbour – arrived at the scene.
Mr Coupland was locked in police cells overnight and lawyers decided to press charges because of the extent of Higgins’s injuries.
‘The police were brilliant,’ said Mr Coupland. ‘They didn’t want me to get prosecuted as they are sick and tired of druggies breaking into vans and then being given community service. ‘I had acted in self-defence and was not going to admit doing anything wrong.’
Higgins has since been jailed for 21 months for drugs, blackmail and weapon offences. He was also given a three-month suspended sentence for attempting to break into Mr Coupland’s van.
He has been in and out of custody since he was a teenager and has 71 previous convictions, including a 14-year prison sentence in 1989 for stabbing a solicitor during an armed robbery.
Mr Coupland said: ‘I had no idea I was taking on such a dangerous man, but I don’t regret what I did and would do the same again. I won’t let these people ruin my life.’
A spokesman for the CPS said: ‘We have discontinued the case after the victim refused to give evidence.’