A burglar with 31 previous convictions became one of the first criminals to escape jail under new sentencing guidelines for judges yesterday after he told the court he wanted to be a professional poet.
Mark Patterson, 42, a drug addict, was convicted at the Old Bailey of breaking into a neighbour's home with a machete while the occupant was in hospital. The court heard that Patterson had 31 convictions including 11 for burglary.
But Judge Goldstein said that he would give Patterson another chance to find his "path to salvation". He placed him on an 18-month drugs treatment and rehabilitation order along guidelines set out by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf. The maximum penalty for aggravated burglary is life imprisonment.
The leader of a victims campaign group accused the judge of having "taken leave of his sentences." Norman Brennan, a police constable and director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: "We should have a vote of no-confidence in judges who have an inability to give appropriate sentences for these serious crimes."
Last month Lord Woolf said burglars should only be imprisoned if it was necessary and that courts must try to deal with the underlying causes of their offending.