Woman who pretended to be a carer to steal from shielding elderly couple in lockdown has sentence increased

A woman who “relentlessly and mercilessly pursued” an extremely vulnerable elderly couple as they were shielding during the height of lockdown has had two years added to her sentence following intervention from senior judges.

Pretending to be a carer, Erica Norris, 36, “targeted” Robert and Maureen Jones’ home in Northolt, west London, three times in the space of 10 days in April this year.

She first went to the Jones’ home on April 1, when Mrs Jones was in hospital, knocking on the front door at around 2am and claiming to be a carer before stealing Mr Jones’ wallet, £40 in cash and two packets of cigarettes.

Norris returned four days later but was not let in the property, before she again went to the Jones’ house on April 10, when Mr Jones was himself in hospital and Mrs Jones was home alone.

A neighbour who recognised Norris’ voice from the previous burglary called the police, who found four gold rings and a handful of change on Norris when they arrived.

Norris, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and was jailed at Isleworth Crown Court in June for four and a half years, with the sentencing judge saying Norris had “relentlessly and mercilessly pursued” the couple.

But the Attorney General Office’s referred Norris’ sentence to the Court of Appeal as being unduly lenient and, at a hearing in London on Tuesday, senior judges increased Norris’ sentence to six and a half years in jail.

Lady Justice Macur, sitting with Mr Justice Knowles and Mr Justice Picken, said Norris had six previous convictions relating to 13 offences, five of which “involved the targeting of vulnerable victims”.

The judge said Norris had been jailed on three separate occasions between 2012 and 2016 for burglaries committed against elderly victims.

Lady Justice Macur said Mr Jones had died before he was able to provide a victim impact statement, but that Mrs Jones had spoken of how the burglaries “left her feeling very scared and nervous” and “always looking over her shoulder”.

Mrs Jones also said that she was “saddened that someone would take advantage of the elderly and put her at risk at the time of the pandemic”.

Increasing Norris’ sentence, Lady Justice Macur said: “In both offences in this case, the victim was at home and, in the case of Mrs Jones, most certainly suffered trauma beyond the inevitable consequences of the invasion of her home.”

She added: “The vulnerability of both victims was significant, obvious to the offender and exacerbated by the impact of the lockdown.”

In a statement after the hearing, Solicitor General Michael Ellis QC said: “Norris targeted a vulnerable, elderly couple during the pandemic and caused a significant amount of distress to the victims.

“The Court of Appeal has rightly increased her sentence today.”