A NEIGHBOUR saw three balaclava-clad men climbing into the grounds of an Accrington primary school in the early hours of the morning.

Blackburn magistrates heard when police arrived they took the witness on a “drive round” and he was able to spot the raiders who then ran off in different directions.

Josh Lee, 19, of Alexandra Street, Clayton-le-Moors, pleaded guilty to theft of lead belonging to Lancashire County Council. He was made subject to a community order for 12 months with 15 days rehabilitation activity requirement, fined £40 and ordered to pay £325 compensation.

Tracy Yates, prosecuting, said the defendant and his two accomplices were seen dragging three wheelie bins to the school fence at Spring Hill Primary.

Police found piles of lead flashing in the grounds and some of it had been placed in the wheelie bins before the thieves fled.

The head teacher reported that a significant amount of lead had been removed from the roof which was in the process of being refurbished. The workers’ scaffold was still in place.

“The cost of the damage is estimated to be in excess of £1,000,” said Mrs Yates. She said one of the three, a youth, had been dealt with by way of a youth caution and the other, who had been identified had not yet been arrested."

Waseem Choudhary, defending, said Lee had co-operated fully with the police and made admissions.

“He received a call from the man who has not yet been arrested asking him to come and help,” said Mr Choudhary. “He was homeless and had no income at the time and the promise of a financial reward was hard for him to resist.”