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Why was court ‘lenient’ in sentencing over Dordogne homejacking case?

The attackers were released on probation – and not sent to prison – after being found guilty over the shooting of a British man while stealing his Aston Martin

Image shows scene where the drama occurred in Javerlhac-et-la-Chapelle-Sainte-Robert. Photo for illustration only Pic: Pic: Google Street View

The sentencing in a Dordogne homejacking case this week has been seen by many as lenient, with neither the man who shot the victim nor his accomplice facing time in jail. Both, however, had already spent several months in detention.

Read more: Dordogne homejacking – shooter and accomplice escape jail time 

Read more: British man shot defending car from burglars in Dordogne, court told

There are several reasons as to why both were able to walk free with only probation (the shooter must wear an electronic tracking bracelet as part of the conditions).

The Connexion was the only English-language media to have a reporter present in the court for the trial this week.

What was the crime and how did it happen?

This concerns an incident which occurred in March 2021, involving Karol Ciezynski, 32, from Angoulême in Charente, and Toby Powell, 19, a Briton from Nontron, Dordogne.

Following an evening in Angoulême, involving the consumption of drink, cocaine and cannabis, the two men said they decided to steal the Aston Martin car from British engineer David Dunsby, 63.

They drove to get a gun from a hide in nearby woods and put on masks and gloves before driving to nearby Javerlhac, where Mr Dunsby lives.

They hauled him from his bed at 04:00, demanding the keys to his car. Mr Dunsby managed to run out of the house where he was attacked physically by the men, who then found the keys in the kitchen. 

As they made to escape in the car, Ciezynski said he shot into the ground because Mr Dunsby “still came after me”. He said he had no idea Mr Dunsby had been hit.

At the time Ciezynski was wearing sunglasses, a mask, gloves and hood [thought to be to avoid recognition] and told the court he was “dazed” due to the drink and drugs he had consumed, and the struggle with Mr Dunsby.

Mr Dunsby required an operation to remove pellets from his leg, chest and face, and psychiatric help for post-traumatic stress.

One of the pellets had been close to a major artery and the ones in his face just missed his eye.

The men were later caught after a major police operation, which also investigated a subsequent theft of a Corvette car and other items from a British holiday home, by Ciezynski and another man. 

The latter and three other men were accused of receiving stolen goods from the burglaries and were also sentenced this week. They were all released on probation.

Initial reports last year suggested the police thought this to be a case of an organised car-stealing gang, with one of the sentenced men Sokol Hoti, 38, a Kosovan from Angoulême, who was one of those found to be receiving the stolen goods, suspected of being the ‘mastermind’. 

The latter admitted receiving both the Aston Martin and the Corvette.

The Périgueux court heard investigators stating they believed Hoti had a hold on the others because he supplied them with cocaine but he and the others denied this in court, saying they were just friends.

So, why have the men not been sent to jail?

Precise reasons were not outlined by the court for the sentencing but several factors are relevant.

Firstly, despite initial reports of an attempted murder charge, the case was brought to court instead on charges of theft with aggravating factors (some of the other offenders were sentenced for receiving stolen goods). 

Also, despite press reports about the initial police investigations, no charges of an organised conspiracy were brought.

Rather than being held at the assises court, as used for the most serious crimes, it was heard by the ordinary Périgueux criminal court.

It should also be noted that the judges handed down only the punishments asked for by the state prosecutor for the two main offenders in the attack on Mr Dunsby, so they did not opt for greater leniency than requested.

The two culprits stated that there was no premeditated plan involved in the theft of the Aston Martin and this was accepted by the lawyer for the victim.

The lawyer stated, having heard the prosecution case: “My client accepts now that he was the victim of very bad luck, in that he became the target of an impulsive decision by two men out of control while under the influence of drugs, and not the target of an gang specialised in stealing expensive motorcars.”

Another issue was the time that the men had already spent in detention while awaiting the trial.

Ciezynski, who came to France from Poland as a child with his family, was given five years’ prison but only three were asked to be ferme, meaning two years were ‘suspended’ and not to actually be served, assuming compliant behaviour.

However, he had already served 17 months in detention and, with a reduction for good behaviour, this was considered to be sufficient for him to serve the remainder of his sentence under probation only, unless he should break his conditions (eg. by failure to report to the probation officer or to wear his tracking bracelet etc).

The judges also heard that he had applied for work in the prison kitchens and had done a good job.

He now intends to work with his father in Ribérac, repairing roofs.

Powell was given 12 months in jail, including five suspended, and three years’ probation. He had already served eight months in detention before being received on bail and starting work again at a hotel. It was therefore considered he also should not face further time in jail.

Though not explicitly mentioned by the judges as affecting their sentencing, both men gave accounts of difficult life circumstances.

Ciezynski referred to having lost his way in life after a break-up with the mother of his two children. He had fallen out with his father in 2020 after arriving drunk at work, and was unemployed at the time of the robbery, but had since made up with his father, who had visited him in prison, he said.

Powell, meanwhile, said he had a difficult time as a teen when his parents’ marriage broke up. He had started work as a cook, but had left because, aged just 16, he had found the hours too long. 

He said he turned to partying to escape his home life and local town, Nontron, which he described as a “town for depressives”.

The men expressed regret, saying they would not do this again and would stop using drugs.

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