Judge brands actions as ‘outrageous’

Gerald Taylor jailed for a knife siege outside Fleetwood Job Centre
Gerald Taylor jailed for a knife siege outside Fleetwood Job Centre
  • Gerald Taylor was furious when told his benefits could be sanctioned
  • He said the place should be burned down and smashed two windows with a hammer
  • Brave passer-by disarmed him by approaching from behind and snatching the hammer off him 59 previous convictions include arson and burglary
  • He was sentenced to 42 weeks in prison by a judge
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A jobseeker who has not worked for 25 years sparked a stand-off with police when he smashed the windows of a job centre and pulled out a knife after being told to do more to find a job.

Gerald Taylor was furious when told by staff at Fleetwood Job Centre his benefits could be sanctioned.

In the week before this incident he had found five jobs he wanted to apply for, but had no credit or money to make those phone calls

He said the place should be burned down and smashed two windows with a hammer.

Outside he produced an eight-inch kitchen knife and was involved in a 90-minute stand-off with police.

Taylor, 40, of Balmoral Road, South Shore, admitted threatening behaviour, criminal damage and possessing a bladed article. He was sentenced to 42 weeks in prison by a judge who told him his actions were “outrageous”.

Preston Crown Court heard that on January 26, Taylor had an appointment at Fleetwood Job Centre about his Jobseekers claim.

Harry Pepper, prosecuting, said the advisor was concerned that he had done very little, in his opinion, to find work.

Taylor, whose 59 previous convictions include arson and burglary, was described as being aggressive and argumentative in the appointment.

He was told his benefits may be stopped because he was not actively seeking work.

The defendant went on to make a threat that the place needed burning down.

He stormed off when told to leave.

Around 45 minutes later Taylor returned, but wasn’t allowed in and told to return next day.

He produced a hammer and smashed two windows, causing £300 of damage to the building.

A brave passer-by disarmed him by approaching from behind and snatching the hammer off him.

However, Taylor then pulled out the kitchen knife.

A police officer who arrived at the scene called for back-up to help defuse the situation.

Mr Pepper added: “He was holding the knife to his wrist.

“When not doing that officers saw he was waving it around and demanding to speak to a Job Centre employee about his benefits.”

Taylor later told police he had been unemployed for 25 years and couldn’t get a job due to his lack of experience and his long list of criminal convictions.

David Traynor, defending, said: “He had no funds to make phone calls to get jobs.

“In the week before this incident he had found five jobs he wanted to apply for, but had no credit or money to make those phone calls.”

Judge Christopher Cornwall told Taylor as he passed sentence: “You are a man with no self control.

“If thwarted as you were, or perceived you were, you react in this wholly unacceptable way.

“It is a pretty remarkable feature of this case that you held however many police officers at bay for over one and a half hours - a complete waste of police time.

“Those officers really were not to know just exactly how an unpredictable man was actually going to behave.

“Was he suddenly going to make a run at them or not?”

Speaking after the hearing, Fleetwood town councillor Bill Barrow (pictured above) , who runs an advocacy service that helps people struggling with the benefits system, said: “The response he has made to it all is exceptional but his situation is not.

“Some of these people are left with nothing at all and there is an awful lot of frustration.

“We have people who are literally left with no income and it can take quite some time before their appeal is heard.

“For somebody to have lost it, you can’t excuse it, but it is a familiar scenario.

“It is tremendously difficult round here to find jobs.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “If you are claiming Jobseekers Allowance the rules are that you have got to be available for work and actively looking for work.

“If you don’t do that you could be sanctioned.”

He added there is no limit to how long someone can claim benefits as long as they stick to an agreed plan to help them find work.

He added: “Whether his case is exceptional or not it is almost impossible to say.”