A MOTHER-OF-TWO who stole wrapped children's presents from under the tree just four days before Christmas has been spared jail.

Burnley Crown Court heard how drug addict Mary-Jane Gilheaney stole the items, along with a male accomplice, from a property in Maple Avenue, Haslingden, on December 21, last year.

Her £300 loot included children's clothes, trainers and toys, but 29-year-old Gilheaney would go on to tell police that she made just £20 from selling on some of the items.

Gilheaney pleaded guilty to burglary on the basis she was acting under the duress of an abusive partner to fund his and her own drug habit.

Prosecuting, Cecilia Pritchard said that basis was acceptable to the crown.

Opening the case, Ms Pritchard said victim Nikeela Coster had come home at 5.45am and recalled passing a man stood next to a van close to her property. Somebody else in the house mentioned the same man to Ms Coster and when she checked under the tree she realised a number of presents had gone.

Ms Pritchard said neighbours recalled seeing a woman – later identified as Gilheaney – walking down the road carrying wrapped Christmas presents.

At 10am the same day Gilheaney was offering to sell children's clothes and trainers.

When she was interviewed by police a few days later Gilheaney eventually admitted to stealing the Christmas presents, said she had made £20 to fund her drug drug habit which she needed help with. She told police: "I do feel guilty."

Ms Pritchard said so disgusted was the local community by what Gilheaney had done that they rallied round and replaced the stolen presents.

Summarising Ms Coster's victim impact statement, Ms Pritchard said: "This has caused stress, more to her family than herself. This is the second time she has been burgled at Christmas. This has upset her children. Most of the presents were replaced but that has made her feel like a charity case."

Gilheaney, of Peel Street, Haslingden, pleaded guilty to burglary, as well as theft of Lego worth £120 from Tesco on December 9 and theft of electrical items worth £200 from Tesco on December 14.

The court heard she has 14 convictions for 49 offences - 32 of which are for theft.

Defending, Michael Maher said his client had been in a physically and psychologically abusive relationship with a man who had and threatened to beat her if she did not bring back money for drugs. That man, who Gilheaney was seeking a non-molestation order against, is also said to have threatened to disfigure and pour petrol over.

Mr Maher said: "It's down right shabby to be taking presents from children at Christmas. Never mind as a person, but as a mother you ought to realise that. When the fog of drug addiction had lifted she described herself as disgusted."

Giving Gilheaney a final chance, Recorder Mary Prior QC sentenced her to 10 months imprisonment but suspended it for 18 months.

She said: "I have read and accept that you have been subjected to real and significant violence from this man."

Gilheaney must complete a nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement, 25 days of rehabilitation, a 30-day thinking skills programme and a three-month curfew.