A JUDGE gave an early birthday present to a Doncaster man who was expecting to go to jail for handling stolen goods.
Instead of an immediate custodial sentence for his 20th birthday yesterday, Craig Baines was given a fresh chance at Doncaster Crown Court.
Recorder Tahir Khan, QC, imposed a suspended sentence, saying the public would be better served by Baines being punished in the community.
Baines, of The Avenue, Bentley, who has a previous criminal record, pleaded guilty to one offence of handling stolen property in March.
Prosecutor Iain Hillis told the court CCTV camera operators spotted Baines behaving suspiciously in Christ Church Road, Doncaster.
When police were despatched to question him he was seen to throw items to the ground, raising suspicion because the items included a phone and an Apple iPod.
When police retrieved them they were traced to two house burglaries the previous night.
Baines was charged with burglary but that charge was dropped because the description of the burglary suspects did not match him, said Mr Hillis.
“But within hours of the burglaries he was in possession of the property which he wrongly told police he had bought a few days earlier,” Mr Hillis added.
Baines had previous convictions dating back to 2006 for burglary and handling and was on prison licence at the time of the offence.
Defence counsel Michael Cane-Soothill said Baines would be at high risk of offending until he addressed his lifestyle and he was now more than willing to make changes after obtaining new accommodation in Bentley.
“He has matured since he was 17 and will cease this sort of activity. He admits the stolen property was an offer too good to turn down,” he said.
Recorder Khan told Baines: “You have appeared before the courts with some regularity over the years. In October you were sent to prison for handling stolen goods and must have known the courts regard this offence as serious.
“You succumbed to the temptation of buying property which only hours before had been stolen in two burglaries. But you are not making excuses and are accepting you gave in to temptation.”
The judge said Baines had already served the equivalent of 12 months on remand and “the public would be better served” by him being punished in the community.
A 12-month custodial sentence was suspended for a year and Baines must complete 100 hours’ unpaid work.