Promising footballer, 18, who won a place at an FA Centre of Excellence but who ‘blighted’ a town centre as a one-girl crimewave avoids jail for threatening a police officer with a knife and drug possession

  • A former women’s youth footballer ‘blighted’ a town with an anti-social spree
  • Caitlin Shepherd, 18, was found guilty of arson, knife possession and assault 

A promising young footballer who ‘blighted’ a town centre as a one-girl crimewave has avoided jail for threatening a police officer with a knife and drug possession. 

Caitlin Shepherd, 18, was issued with a restraining order in June 2022 prohibiting her from venturing into St Helens, Merseyside after multiple reports of anti social behaviour including arson, criminal damage and assault. 

Shepherd, who was signed up by the FA Centre of Excellence at Everton for a year when she was just eight, was said to have terrorised St Helens locals for two years.

She had appeared before youth courts, where defendants are entitled to anonymity, but was eventually named by Merseyside Police at age 18 after being issued with the two-year restraining order in June.

Last week Shepherd, who has autism, appeared before a judge again, this time at an adult court at Sefton, for 12 more offences including arson, assault, threatening a police officer with a knife, and drug possession.

She was given 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, with a warning she would be locked up in Styal women’s prison in Cheshire if she reoffended again. 

Caitlin Shepherd appeared before Sefton Magistrates Court last week

Once a promising youth footballer Shepherd has since been in and out of courts

The court heard police are still investigating further incidents in neighbouring Southport though no charges have yet been brought. She was already on a community order for previous matters.

Caitlin Shepherd’s crime spree

GUILTY: Breaching restraining order, threatening PC with knife, assaulting two PC’s, possession of Class A and B drugs, affray, three counts of arson, possession of knife, criminal damage of police windshield

CHARGES DROPPED: one count of arson, two counts of criminal damage, cannabis possession

Her loutish behaviour is in stark contrast to the pictures posted on Facebook by her proud family of Shepherd winning football competitions, taking part in martial arts classes and playing the piano and guitar. 

There also photos of her at Wigan Athletic football club and posing with Mayumi ‘Maz’ Pacheco who plays as a defender for FA Women’s Super League club Aston Villa.

Shepherd had previously pleaded guilty to breaching a restraining order not to enter a prescribed area of St Helens by being at the Hardshaw shopping centre on November 11 of last year. 

She had also earlier admitted threatening a PC Bishop with a knife at the same location and time.

New offences she pleaded guilty to from that same date were possession of class A psychedelic drug 2C-B plus class B drug ketamine. 

Other crimes she admitted included affray, assault on a PC Bamber and three offences of arson – they each involved setting fire to toilet roll holders in the shopping centre.

On March 3, Shepherd admitted possession of a lock knife in a public place.

Finally, she pleaded guilty to criminal damage of a police patrol car windscreen worth £306 last November 5 plus an assault on a PC Bishop.

In her childhood she won a place at an FA football school of excellence

A court heard the teenager lives with autism and mental health issues 

The Crown Prosecution Service agreed to drop other charges including an allegation of arson, which involved £400 worth of damage to a council refuse bin in St Helens town centre on March 5 of last year, plus criminal damage to a public bench and to a war memorial in the town’s Victoria Square also from March 5 of last year, and also to possession of cannabis from the same date.

Aaron Smith, prosecuting said: ‘Perhaps the most serious offence is the threat with the knife towards the police officer. Compensation can be made to PC Bamber and PC Bishop if you think it would be appropriate and of course to the officer who was subject to the threats.’

In mitigation defence lawyer Kerry Doyle, said Shepherd, lives with her mother and added: ‘There is nothing left now in St Helens to deal with and that episode has hopefully come to an end.

‘There are some Southport matters for which her bail has been extended but she may not be charged. Since these matters she has not been in trouble and things have been going well at home and she is attending college.’

When District Judge James Hatton asked Miss Doyle if she felt it would be unfair to hand her client a suspended prison sentence, the solicitor said: ‘I do not think I could accuse you of being unfair. She is very well aware of how lucky she has been.’

The judge then replied: ‘Her luck will run out the minute I see her face in the court again. I worry about Caitlin, I worry about her behaviour and her types of behaviour.

‘She needs to understand that I have thought long and hard about her position. She has a very unique set of circumstances. I took them into account when she was a youth. I have taken them into account when she is an adult. But I will not take them into account again.

‘If she breaches the order that I propose it will inevitably be custody.’

The once promising youth player was told she would face custody if she offended again

In sentencing, the judge added: ‘I have dealt with your cases almost exclusively throughout the last year and now this enormous set of offences. I am dealing with 12 offences today. I have tried to be kind to you because of your personal circumstances and because of the fact that you have some unique difficulties which you have to deal with.

‘People have clearly bent over backwards to try and accommodate those circumstances and try to help you to understand that the way you behave cannot be tolerated and needs to stop. You are engaging with the probation service, you are engaging in terms of the agencies who are assisting you to communicate better with your autism.

‘There has to be a consequence to your behaviour. You have to understand that you cannot come before the courts and rely on that you have autism and that you have mental health issues to keep you out of prison. There are only so many times that the court can take these into account before its patience is lost.

‘I want to be very clear to you. If you come before me again and you are convicted of an offence I am going to send you into custody because everything else has been tried. I am going to make it extremely clear for you, suspended sentence, is hanging over you from this point onwards for two years.

‘If you commit any offence at all, the starting point will be to activate that suspended sentence. I sincerely hope, I genuinely do, that never happens. But please understand, nobody is bluffing, patience has run out. This is the last chance you get from these courts before going to HMP Styal and with due respect you will not do well in HMP Styal.

‘It will not be a place where you flourish, where you will find comfort. It will be a difficult period of time if you have to serve a prison sentence..’

Shepherd was ordered to pay £100 to the officer she threatened with a knife and £100 for each of the two assaults on police. 

She was also ordered to pay £306 in compensation for the windscreen she damaged.

The Restraining Order remains in place until 20 June 2024. 

Insp Jon Smith of Merseyside Police said: ‘Shepherd’s actions have blighted St Helen’s Town Centre for more than two years and we welcome the order, which shows our commitment to robustly deal with any offenders who have a negative impact on our community.’

Source: Read Full Article