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Date registered: Apr 2006
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A MAGISTRATE who gave his wife a Rolex watch that had been accidentally dropped in a supermarket by its real owner has been convicted of theft.
Geoffrey Rowlett pocketed the ÂŁ3,200 ladyâ€™s watch instead of handing it to police or trying to trace the owner. He then gave it to his wife, Margaret, as a 60th birthday present.
The deceit was not exposed for almost another two years when he took the watch to be repaired and the jeweller checked the serial number against a list of Rolex watches reported lost or stolen.
Rowlett, a magistrate for more than 30 years, was questioned by police but instead of telling the truth he made up a story to convince them he had come across it legitimately.
He claimed he had bought the gold watch for ÂŁ1,500 in a bric-a-brac shop while on his way to a Freemasonsâ€™ meeting in Portsmouth.
However, he was unable to provide a receipt and claimed not to remember the name or exact location of the shop. In an attempt to give his story more credibility, Rowlett hired a private detective to try to find the shop after police told him they had drawn a blank.
Using records from his supermarket loyalty card, police were able to prove that he had visited the Tesco store in Poole, Dorset, within two hours of the watchâ€™s real owner on January 16, 2002.
Rowlett, 67, from Poole, was convicted of theft at Southampton Magistratesâ€™ Court and fined ÂŁ600 and ordered to pay ÂŁ400 costs. He had denied the charge.
District Judge Roger Ede told him: â€śThe conviction is the real penalty for a man of your standing. It was an act of folly and an incredible story.â€ť
Rowlett refused to comment after the hearing other than to say he intended to appeal.
But Detective Sergeant Ben Hargreaves, of Poole CID, said: â€śAs a magistrate he certainly couldnâ€™t argue that he didnâ€™t know the law.
â€śHe was given every opportunity to tell the truth but chose to keep his lies going. It is not the sort of behaviour you expect from a magistrate.â€ť
The Rolex has now been returned to its owner, a widow who had been given it by her late husband.
Rod Brummitt, justicesâ€™ chief executive at Dorset Magistratesâ€™ Court, said that Rowlett had been suspended as a magistrate as soon as the allegation came to light. He said: â€śHe retains his status as a magistrate and any further action will not be taken until we know whether there is to be an appeal.
â€śIt would be our expectation that the magistrate would resign. He has been a long-serving and distinguished magistrate in many ways, but clearly we cannot and do not condone that sort of offence