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Thief who targeted churches and schools gets chance to avoid jail


By Ali Morrison

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Sheriff Gary Aitken heard the case at Inverness Sheriff Court.
Sheriff Gary Aitken heard the case at Inverness Sheriff Court.

A 48-year-old thief who targeted churches and schools has been given a chance to stay out of jail by a sheriff.

But Stuart Lilley has to stay away from educational or religious establishments for the next four weeks while a drug treatment assessment is being done and remain at his home in Dalcroy Green, Croy between 8pm and 8am.

However, Lilley was warned by Sheriff Gary Aitken that "custody is still very much uppermost in my mind, given the seriousness of the charges. I am far from persuaded that a community-based disposal is appropriate."

He told Lilley that a lengthy sentence of perhaps three years would be imposed if he did not comply with the conditions of his bail.

Lilley previously admitted a total of 11 charges of dishonesty across the Highlands.

He was originally facing a total of 25 offences but his pleas of not guilty to the majority of them was accepted by fiscal depute Robert Weir.

Defence solicitor Marc Dickson persuaded the sheriff not to impose a custodial sentence immediately, but to defer for a drug treatment and testing assessment.

The lawyer told Inverness Sheriff Court: "His offending is directly related to his drug addiction to methadone and crack cocaine.

"There seems to be a genuine motivation to change as he has been working with an agency while in custody."

Lilley had sentence deferred until August 22 and he was released on bail.

His crime spree began on June 28 or 29, 2021 when he broke into the Watermill Enterprises premises at Cantray Bridge near his home in Dalcroy Green, Croy and stole £400 in cash. His DNA was found on a tool he left behind in the premises.

He returned to the same building on August 13 that year and broke in with intent to steal.

On December 21, 2021 his next target was the Crown Church in Inverness where he stole £100. Again his DNA was found inside.

Ten days later, on December 31, 2021, he broke into St Ninian's RC Church in Huntly Street, Inverness and stole several hundreds of pounds.

On January 5, 2022, CCTV recorded him in the Barn Church, Culloden where he had later broken into a cupboard with intent to steal.

The court heard that he was particularly active between February 1 and 6, 2022.

On February 1, he was found in Crown Primary School in circumstances where it could be inferred he intended to commit theft.

The following day, on February 2, he was again filmed attempting to break into Bowhunter Archery in Balnagowan Woods, near Nairn.

Then later that day, he was found in suspicious circumstances in Dornoch Academy. On the same day or the following morning, he broke into the Mansfield Hotel, in Tain by smashing a window and stole a set of keys.

DNA from his blood once more confirmed he was the culprit.

Four days after that, he attempted to break into Dornoch Cathedral.

The court heard that the court eventually imposed a bail condition that Lilley did not enter religious premises.

But on January 12, 2023 he breached that by breaking into St Columba Church in Nairn by smashing a window with intent to steal. Blood found in the church was confirmed as his.


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