Thief who demanded cash from elderly couple in their home spared jail after victims accept his apology
Lewis Burns, 21, smashed window and terrified couple in their seventiesThey forgave him after hearing of his previous good character
15:05 GMT, 17 December 2012
Previous good character: Lewis Burns was spared jail
A burglar who smashed his way into a sheltered housing complex and demanded cash from elderly residents has been let off prison after his victims accepted his apology.
Lewis Burns, 21, switched off the CCTV, pulled his jumper over his face and broke a window with a fire extinguisher before climbing into the couple's home.
He faced four years in prison after being traced by a blood stain, but his victims, who are in their 70s, decided to spare him jail after he kept out of trouble for six months.
Burns, who was sacked from his job as a valve fitter after the break-in in Hull, had pleaded guilty to burglary at an earlier hearing this summer.
He said he had been drinking and had mixed hayfever medication with the alcohol, which he said resulted in him having no memory of breaking into the Thornton Court housing complex.
The couple, who are 73 and 78, were woken by the noise of the break-in in February this year and Burns repeatedly demanded they hand over their money.
He only ran off when they threatened to call the police, but was later traced by blood he left at the scene.
Samples matched DNA kept on the police national database, which Burns, of west Hull, had been placed on in 2005 after receiving a caution
Burns had been warned at a previous hearing he faced four years behind bars, but in the first case of its kind in Hull, Judge Mark Bury delayed sentencing him for six months to see if he could keep out of trouble.
After he did, the female victim, who asked not to be named, said: 'I have forgiven him for what he has done. I accept his apology.
'He is only young and it sounds like he has been a good kid before.
'I have children and I wouldn't have liked to have seen them go to prison at that age. Hopefully, this will teach him a lesson.'
Scene of the break-in: Thornton Court sheltered housing complex in Hull
Judge Bury had asked police to contact the couple to see if they would be willing to meet Burns, who carries out voluntary work for the elderly, and accept his apology in person.
Although the victims were too distressed to meet Burns, a father with no previous convictions, they agreed to spare him prison after hearing how he had kept out of trouble.
Judge Bury gave Burns a 12-month community order and told him to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.
Speaking at Hull Crown Court on Friday, he told Burns: 'Despite preliminary suggestions these two unfortunate victims would be prepared to see you, they have not in any event decided to do that.
'I have no criticism, one can well understand their sense of terror at this offence. It seems to me you would have been able to give them some encouragement about the sort of person you are and the totally isolated nature of this offence.
'It is important you have not reoffended. I will honour the promise I made to you back in June.
'If you do not comply with the order then I will send you to prison. You can put this rather sorry period of your life behind you and live a law-abiding future, hopefully in work.
'The seriousness of the offence merits a prison sentence in the region of four years and that is what you can expect if you do not comply.'
Burns earlier said he wanted to apologise to his victims in person. He said he had no memory of the burglary and only found out what he had done when he was contacted by police.
Burns said: 'I couldn't believe I had done something like that and I felt so sorry for the victims.
'There are no words to describe what I have done. I just want to apologise as much as I can.'
Burns' barrister Paul Genney said: 'His victims agreed to see him but subsequently had second thoughts and decided against it. He has managed to stay out of trouble.'
Burns pleaded guilty to the burglary, which happened on February 4, at Hull Crown Court.