Four men caught in a car with stolen laughing gas

FOUR men found in a car with stolen cylinders of laughing gas were planning to sell the cylinders for use at music raves, a court heard.

The men had travelled to Norfolk to obtain the five cylinders of nitrous oxide, and three of them were caught on CCTV as they went into a fenced compound in the early hours.

Appearing before Ely magistrates, 18-year-old Daniel Hatchett, of Longchamps Drive, Ely; Jason O’Callaghan, 22, of Northfield Park, Soham; and Steven Shephard, of Murfitts Lane, Fordham, admitted stealing five cannisters on November 4; Shepherd also admitted breaching his unpaid work order.

Stuart Holland, 34, of Northfield park, Soham, admitted handling the five stolen cannisters, and possessing cannabis.

Prosecuting, Laura Mardell said the four defendants were found in a vehicle that had pulled into a field. The cannisters had come from PLG Farm Supplies at Taverham.

Hatchett and Shepherd told police that they planned to sell the gas at raves; O’Callaghan had stayed with the car; and Holland said he bought and sold gas. When Holland’s home was searched, a small amount of cannabis was found.

Mitigating for Holland, Michael Judkins said his client had “a genuine interest” in the rave scene, for its musical content. He had not worked for five years due to an ankle injury, and had paid “a substantial amount” of money to a person, to acquire the cylinders. Because of his injury, Holland had travelled with friends to meet the person who was selling the gas.

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“He had no reason to think they were not being supplied from a genuine and lawful source,” he added. “But he accepts that by the time the police arrived, he felt here was something not quite right about the transaction.”

The other three defendants were not represented in court, but each apologised for their behaviour.

Holland was given a curfew between 8pm and 8am until Christmas Day, and was fined �30 for having the cannabis. Shephard was given a 14-day curfew between 8pm and 8am, and must carry out an extra 21 hours of unpaid work.

Hatchett and O’Callaghan were ordered to perform 100 hours of unpaid work; all four must pay �85 costs.