A JUDGE has praised a recycling crew who spotted a prolific crook in a back street with stolen property and blocked his escape.

Drug addict Robert Norris, 31, had been confronted by the cardboard collection crew as he tried to make off with the 'swag bags' from a house raid in Colne.

Burnley Crown Court heard Norris threatened one of the bin men with a knife.

Judge Ian Leeming, QC, described the refuse collectors as 'vigilant'.

Norris, who has 101 previous offences, had been on licence from an 876 day sentence for burglary and had not long been out of jail at the time.

He had gone down an alley to buy the proceeds of the break-in, worth several hundred pounds, and which he knew were stolen, for £30 on February 28.

Norris, who has served the equivalent of four months on remand, has now been freed, after admitting handling stolen goods and having a bladed instrument.

The defendant, of Brentwood Road, Nelson, was given a community order, with an eight week curfew, between 8pm and 7am and a 12 month drug rehabilitation requirement. He must pay a £60 victim surcharge.

Sarah Statham, prosecuting, said the victim's home on Glen Street, Colne, was burgled and almost 100 DVDs, X Box and PlayStation games were taken.

The prosecutor said: "But for a group of perceptive binmen, that property would never have been recovered."

She said the men were working on the North Valley estate at 10am when they saw Norris and a female pull up in a taxi and go down the back street.

The binmen saw Norris reappear with 'three bags full of swag'. The men challenged him.

He then dropped the bags, tried to run off and the refuse collectors followed for a short distance and kept the defendant contained behind a metal fence.

Miss Statham said Mr Carter then had a confrontation with the defendant through the fence, and, standing about 15 feet away, Norris produced the blade and told him he would stab him if he went near. Officers arrived and Norris was detained. After the incident, he had been recalled on his licence for 28 days.

Lisa Roberts, for Norris, said the defendant had spent 50 days on remand for the offences.

David Walker, Pendle Council's waste services manager, said: “We are delighted that our staff’s actions have been recognised by the court."