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Lakeballs man sentence is overturned

A golf-ball thief had a six-month jail sentence overturned yesterday when a judge ruled the punishment was disproportionate to the crime.

John Collinson was jailed last month after he and a helper were caught red-handed by police with 1,158 balls dredged from the bottom of a lake on the Whetstone Golf Club in central England.

He denied theft, claiming the lost balls belonged to no one.

A golf club official said that the street value of the two sacks of balls could be anything between £50 and £500 depending on their condition.

Collinson had spent 10 years in the so-called "lake ball" business, donning diving gear to scour the ponds and lakes of Britain's golf clubs for balls to re-sell.

He spent nine days behind bars before being released on bail, and yesterday his sentence was replaced by a two-year conditional discharge. After his release one of his legal team described him as "a very happy man".

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