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“Urban explorer” sentenced for breaking into Eden Valley mansion

Joel Smith

AN “urban explorer” has been sentenced after breaking into a woman’s Eden Valley mansion.

Joel Smith was caught by police who were in the area of Grade II-listed Flass House, Maulds Meaburn, just before midnight on January 27.

Unemployed Smith, 31, was carrying a bag containing belongings he snatched while trespassing inside the unoccupied 22-bedroom stately home. These included a wallet, cash box, DVD player and speakers.

Smith admitted burglary and was sentenced today (THURS) at Carlisle Crown Court, where a judge noted Flass had attracted “notoriety” on urban explorer websites.

Some past trespassers had recorded footage which, after being posted online, attracted millions of views and spawned copycat crimes. It was also dubbed a “drug lords’ mansion”, Flass having been previously rented out to a group of criminals – all later jailed – who turned it into a £5 million cannabis farm.

Judge Andrew Jefferies QC noted owner Christine Hodgson, who bought Flass in 2010 and still lived there – was “upset” by persistent trespassing. Judge Jefferies said he took a “dim view” of such offending, and believed urban explorer websites were “tantamount to encouraging people to commit crimes”.

“Not only did you trespass,” the judge told Smith, “you then, once inside, stole items which were not yours. Even if you had been there as an urban explorer, it doesn’t excuse you taking property. You shouldn’t have even been there – let alone helping yourself to items belonging to her.”

Smith, of Tweed Road, Redcar, received a community order comprising 300 hours’ unpaid work.

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