A PROLIFIC thief was given a chance to show he had changed his ways.

Blackburn magistrates heard Liam O’Reilly had been out of trouble for four months which was described as a “glimmer of hope.”

And District Judge Joanne Hirst said while a custodial sentence was appropriate she was prepared to suspend it.

O’Reilly, 40, of Penzance Street, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to stealing alcohol worth £262 from Booths in Clitheroe on January 4 and admitted being in breach of a community order and being in breach of post sentence supervision. He was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 20 days rehabilitation activity requirement.

District Judge Hirst said O’Reilly had 184 previous offences on his record spanning 22 years. “Against that background a custodial sentence is clearly appropriate,” she said.

“Given the fact you are in a better position than you have been for a number of years I am prepared to suspend the sentence. There is a glimmer of hope that appears to have developed in the last few months.”

Jonathan Taylor, defending, said O’Reilly had been released from prison with no benefits and no accommodation.

“He has been managing to avoid using heroin which explains why there are no offences since January,” said Mr Taylor.

“He knew everything would eventually catch up with him and he buried his head in the sand. Since the commission of this offence he has managed to avoid using heroin and there have been no further offences.”