In a busy August for the county’s courts, here are seven Hertfordshire criminals who have been convicted this month, including a man jailed for more than 11 years after leaving an ex-partner with life-changing injuries.

1. Benn Merryweather

Benn Merryweather has been jailed for 11 years and five months after leaving his ex-partner with life-changing injuries.

He was initially arrested on August 27 last year, after police received calls reporting a disturbance from inside an address.

When officers attended, Merryweather failed to respond to them or open the door.

The Comet: Benn Merryweather.Benn Merryweather. (Image: Herts police)

After they had gained entry, police found a semi-unconscious woman in the hallway, with what appeared to be a serious head injury.

As she received medical assistance, Merryweather was taken into custody.

The victim was taken to hospital and placed in an induced coma.

She spent a week recovering in hospital, having suffered memory loss and "multiple fractures" to her eye socket, cheekbone, ribs and spine.

After further enquiries, CCTV footage was discovered from earlier that evening showing Merryweather and the victim walking down a local high street. As they walked, he swiped the woman's legs from behind and left her lying on the ground.

2. Michael Hargrave

Michael Hargrave has been jailed for 13 years and 8 months after pleading guilty to sexual offences relating to two children in Hertfordshire.

The 31-year-old, from Loch Crescent in Edgware, admitted six charges at St Albans Crown Court on August 10.

The Comet: Michael Hargrave.Michael Hargrave. (Image: Herts police)

He was arrested at and address in Kings Langley on May 11, 2023, after a 14-year-old girl from Hemel Hempstead reported engaging in sexual activity with a man she had met online.

While Hargrave was in custody, further investigations found there was a nine-year-old victim in Hemel Hempstead, whom officers were then able to safeguard.

The offences took place between January 2022 and April of this year.

Hargrave met both victims initially on Snapchat and then arranged to meet the 14-year-old victim in person, and subsequently committed offences against her.

3. Andrew Dalby

Paedophile Andrew Dalby was caught by a police sting after arranging to meet a 14-year-old boy in St Albans and jailed for six years.

He was sentenced to six years and nine months in jail at St Albans Crown Court on Monday, after pleading guilty to the following ten charges:

  • Attempting to engage in sexual comms with a child
  • Arranging the commission of a child sex offence
  • Three charges of causing a child to engage in sexual activity
  • Four charges of sexual communication with a child
  • One charge of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity

The Comet: Andrew Dalby.Andrew Dalby. (Image: Herts police)

Between October 20, 2022 and December 10, 2022, officers from the Child Online Safeguarding Team monitored Dalby chatting who he thought was a 14-year-old boy, whilst claiming to be a 30-year-old doctor working in the Sheffield area.

As the conversations progressed, Dalby offered to meet the 'boy' offering him a health check. The chat then became sexual, with Dalby booking a hotel room in St Albans so they could spend the night together.

Dalby then travelled to St Albans from Sheffield, where he was arrested by officers at the hotel he had booked.

A search of his car revealed he had brought items including condoms and medical equipment with him.

He was charged and remanded to prison whilst the investigation continued, with analysis of his phone and computer subsequently revealed further victims in Hull, Great Yarmouth, Birmingham and South Wales, who were spoken to by specialist COST officers.

4. Ryan Marshall

Ryan Marshall, a drug dealer from Welwyn Garden City who sold cocaine and heroin as part of a county lines operation, has been jailed for more than three years.

The 25-year-old, of Heronswood Road, was sentenced to three years and four months at St Albans Crown Court on Friday, August 11, for the following offences:

  • Being concerned in the supply of crack cocaine
  • Being concerned in the supply of heroin
  • Possession with intent to supply crack cocaine
  • Offending while under a community order for being in possession of a class B drug

The Comet: Ryan Marshall.Ryan Marshall. (Image: Herts police)

On Tuesday, July 4, officers from the Operation Mantis Team and Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere Scorpion Teams carried out a warrant at the 25-year-old's home address, supported by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Dog Unit.

Around 80g of class A drugs were seized, as well as mobile phones and just under £3,000 in cash, while Marshall, who was inside the address at the time, was arrested.

"Marshall was responsible for running a highly active county line, causing huge misery to many," said Detective Inspector Bianca Broadbent.

5. Thomas Burden

Thomas Burden, of Osborne Crescent in Shefford, has been jailed for strangeling and assaulting a female victim in Dunstable.

On October 11, 2022, he approached the victim near the Quadrant Shopping Centre in Dunstable and became verbally aggressive, calling her several names. He then hit her in the face several times, before strangling her for around one minute.

The Comet: Thomas Burden.Thomas Burden. (Image: Beds Police)

He received a sentence of two years in prison for intentional strangulation, with an extended two years on licence. He was also sentenced to six months in prison for assault - to run concurrently with the other sentence - as well as a restraining order.

Non-fatal strangulation became a specific offence in June last year, following the passing of the Domestic Abuse Act.

Previously, it was more difficult to secure appropriate charges for offences involving strangulation, as the injuries are not always possible.

6. Alison Blake

Alison Blake has been jailed for more than two years after she used her position as treasurer of a North Herts church to launder over £125,000 that she had stolen from her employer.

The 52-year-old also stole collection money during her time as treasurer of All Saints Church in Radwell.

She was the sole signatory on the Parochial Church Council (PCC) account, and used her position to transfer stolen cash from Herts-based Kier Fleet Service, where she worked.

During sentencing on Friday, August 4, St Albans Crown Court heard that she then paid the money into her own account and used it as "retail therapy" to counter her depression and the perimenopause.

Blake had become treasurer in 2013, and opened an internet banking account for the village church, which had only ten parishioners at the time.

It usually collected around £3,500 per year. But, from February 2018, Blake paid in 147 fraudulent cheques from Kier, where she worked as an assistant finance manager, totalling £125,531.05.

The amounts of the cheques varied between £200 and £2,000, and Blake also took £24,000 from church funds - which she has since repaid.

After cashing in the cheques, Blake then transferred the money to her own account and spent it on shopping sites such as Amazon, Estée Lauder, Not On The High Street, Etsy and QVC.

7. Mark Butler

Mark Butler has been jailed for 36 weeks for burglary and theft after a sighting by an off-duty officer led to his arrest in Hemel Hempstead.

He appeared at Hatfield Remand Court on Wednesday, August 16, where he pleaded guilty to charges of non-dwelling burglary, theft from motor vehicle, attempted theft from motor vehicle, and fraud.

Later that same day, the 30-year-old was sentenced 36 weeks in prison and ordered to pay compensation to three of the victims.

On Monday, August 14, an off-duty police officer based in Three Rivers was shopping in Aldi on Maylands Avenue in Hemel Hempstead, when he spotted Butler in the store.

He made the call to police and colleagues from Dacorum’s Operation Scorpion team arrested Butler a short time later.

"This case just goes to show that as police officers, we are never off duty. Even when we’re running errands on our rest days, we’re scanning our surroundings for anything – or anyone – that seems suspicious," said Detective Constable Rob King, from the Three Rivers Local Crime Unit.