A HEROIN addict facing a minimum three-year jail term after his latest house burglary conviction tried to convince a judge to take the exceptional step of suspending the sentence – claiming a chronic lung condition meant prison was an unsafe place for him in the current coronavirus climate.

Martin Riley, 44, once described as a ‘menace to everybody with a house’ after carrying out a string of burglaries while volunteering at a church cafe, found himself back before the courts after his latest crime spree.

Defence barrister Andrew Evans said his client was concerned his chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder (COPD) – a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties – would make him particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 and that Riley had raised concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment and social distancing in Preston Prison.

Rejecting Riley’s plea for him to go against sentencing guidelines, Judge Simon Medland QC said his lengthy list of previous convictions and the fact he committed his latest burglaries while out on prison licence went against him, as well as concerns the author of a pre-sentence report had cited about the defendant ‘just telling her what he thought she wanted to hear’.

Prosecutor Karen Brooks said the first of Riley’s latest two burglaries took place at a house in Rawsthorne Avenue, Haslingden, on January 15.

The homeowner returned with his eight-year-old daughter at 5.45pm to saw some shattered glass on the wooden floor of his conservatory.

Stolen from that property were two iPhones, a Huawei tablet, two passports, bank books, a Barclay card, a £50 Amazon voucher, a gold necklace and come cosmetic jewellery. Riley was caught from blood left behind.

The court heard the daughter had been badly affected by the break-in.

Ms Brooks said: “She didn’t talk for two days and hated being in the house by herself. She has nightmares.”

The court heard the second incident happened on February 9 when student Adnan Chobaki  was in the attic of the semi-detached home he shares with his parents in Withington Road, Manchester.

Ms Brooks said at 2pm Mr Chobaki was listening to music when he heard a series of bangs including the sound of breaking glass. 

Ms Brooks said: “He contacted the police and he then heard movement below, including in the area of the stairs. He then heard cupboards and doors opening. He thought he heard voices.

“Mr Chobaki peered over the attic entrance and began to move down the ladder at the instruction of the police operator. He saw a male on the landing – the defendant – and he then heard the sound of voices announcing police. 

“The male walked into the front bedroom and Mr Chobaki informed police officers that the defendant was still inside the house, and identified the location. 

“Officers who had arrived and gained entry through the broken patio door were directed to the bedroom and indeed when they moved into the bedroom area saw the defendant jump from the window.”

The court heard that Riley was arrested outside the house trying to briskly walk away.

When he was searched police found a screwdriver, two rings belonging to Mr Chobaki’s mother, an Alcatel mobile phone, a balaclava, two fleece gloves and a hammer head.

The court heard he caused £400 damage to the Chobakis’ front door.

Riley, who has 22 convictions for 63 offences, pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary.

Mr Evans said his client, who has been addicted to hard drugs since he was 18. He said the father-of-one had managed to stay drug-free between 2013 and 2017 when he joined a church and ran a support cafe in Accrington but turned back to drugs and crime.

After being released from his last sentence on licence to a hostel in Bury, Riley said he was surrounded by drug users who targeted him for money after word got out that he had received a substantial inheritance.

He added: “There is solid evidence this man would be in a shielding category were he to be in the community. He has a chronic condition – COPD – potentially as a result of his long-term drug use. He was diagnosed with that in 2014 and it is his fear and indeed the fears of his family that he is at great risk if he contracts Covid-19 of his health deteriorating in a very grave fashion.”

Jailing Riley, of Nevis Street, Rochdale, for 44 months, Judge Medland said: “It appears to me from all the documents I have read in this case that you had, regrettably in many ways, a very unloving childhood and a very difficult background. On the back of all that you took to taking cannabis. 

“That led you to amphetamine and cannabis and amphetamine led you to Class A drugs. It is all too easy to see that when you are clear of drugs, you have a very good chance of staying clear of crime. 

“The courts can give and mostly do give as many opportunities to defendants of non-custodial sentences as they can. Sending someone to prison is never a pleasant thing to do. It is a duty from time to time when demanded.”