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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 14:08 GMT
Dome diamond sentences reduced
The diamond  case
The robbers shattered the diamond's case before being caught
Two men convicted for plotting the UK's biggest gem heist have had their 18-year jail sentences reduced.

They were convicted of conspiracy to rob after trying to steal 200m of diamonds from the Millennium Dome.

Judge Michael Coombe admitted falling asleep during the trial and the men's lawyers told the Court of Appeal that he might have missed vital evidence.

On Thursday their sentences were reduced to 15 years and a third man's 15-year term was reduced to 12.

Police tipped off

But Raymond Betson, 41, from Chatham in Kent, and William Cockran, 50, from Catford, south-east London, were both refused permission to appeal against their conviction on Wednesday.

The pair had claimed they should have faced a lesser charge of conspiracy to steal.

Aldo Ciarrocchi, 33, of Bermondsey, south-east London, did not challenge his conviction, but wanted his 15-year sentence reduced.

In November 2000 the men were part of a group who used a mechanical digger to smash their way into where the De Beers diamond exhibit vault was housed.

But the police had received a tip off, so there were more than 100 armed officers waiting for them.

'Highly regrettable'

The men were convicted at the Old Bailey in February 2002 and sentenced by the then 70-year-old Judge Coombe.

He admitted falling asleep during the defence lawyer's speech, but denied snoring.

Lord Justice Rose said that although it was "highly regrettable" the judge had fallen asleep, the court was not persuaded that any defendant had been unfairly prejudiced.

When he quashed the original sentences he pointed out that although it was an "abnormal" case, the court should have particular regard to the fact that firearms were not carried, still less used.

The BBC's Collete McBeth
"They had to give them some credit for not carrying firearms and so they reduced their sentences"

Dome diamond raiders jailed
18 Feb 02  |  England
Timeline: Dome diamond heist
18 Feb 02  |  England


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