A MAN convicted of fraud fled a court building moments before he was due to be sentenced.
Leonard McCormick, 27, had been warned by Kirklees magistrates that they were considering sending him to jail.
But when prison guards arrived in Court One in time for the bench to announce his sentence, McCormick had vanished.
Magistrates issued a warrant for the father-of-one’s arrest after a search.
McCormick’s solicitor Daniel Metcalfe had urged the bench to consider an alternative to prison. He said that McCormick, a traveller, wanted to be with his 11-month-old son for his first Christmas.
Magistrates were told that the victim of the fraud was Saman Ahmad.
On June 25, Mr Ahmad had been shopping in Huddersfield town centre and was waiting for a taxi on Brook Street.
A vehicle with three men, including McCormick, pulled up beside him.
Laurie Scott, prosecuting, said: “They asked him (Mr Ahmad) if he wanted to buy a laptop and after some consideration he decided he would.
“They agreed a price of £120 and when he was satisfied that it was working he went to the cash machine and withdrew the money.”
The prosecutor said that the men handed Mr Ahmad a black bag which he believed contained the laptop.
But the car then drove away at speed.
Ms Scott said: “When he checked he found that the bag contained two bottles of water and two cans of baked beans. He took down the car registration details and notified police.”
Officers arrested owner McCormick, of Leeds-based Cottingley Springs Caravan Site, on September 2. He admitted a charge of fraud by false representation, but claimed that he initially knew nothing of the scam.
McCormick said that one of the men told him he had laptops for sale and asked if he could drive them around. He said he pocketed £20 of the cash handed over by Mr Ahmad.
McCormick claimed that a man named ‘Jimmy’ was the brains behind the operation.
In mitigation Mr Metcalfe said that his client recognised the severity of the offence.
But he asked magistrates to consider a community sentence.
Mr Metcalfe told them: “It’s refreshing that a member of the travelling community has spoken openly to police about their wrong doings.
“It will be his child’s first Christmas – if he goes to prison he won’t spend it with his child.”
After returning to sentence McCormick, magistrates were told that he had absented himself without the court’s leave.
They issued a warrant not backed by bail.
McCormick’s wife and child were still sitting outside the court after he had left.
A police spokesman told the Examiner that a photo of missing McCormick would not be issued to help trace him. He added that this would only happen if the defendant was a danger to the public and this would have to be signed off by the Chief Constable.