A CRIMINAL went on the run for almost two years after he participated in the burglary of his friend's mother’s house. 

Joe Shepherd wept as Judge Richard Gioserano suspended his 15-month prison sentence for two years after hearing several mitigating factors which convinced him not to send the 33-year-old to prison.

Appearing over video link from HMP Preston, Shepherd apologised for his actions and thanked Judge Gioserano – who warned him he could go straight back to prison should he find himself in trouble.

Prosecuting, Adam Lodge told Preston Crown Court that Shepherd failed to attend a hearing in April 2019 after he had been charged with burglary.

A warrant was issued for his arrest and despite police and media appeals which stretched across Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and Lancashire, the dad-of-one went to ground and wasn’t found until 22 months later in February, when he pleaded not-guilty to the offence of burglary. He has remained in prison ever since.

He later changed his plea to guilty and appeared for sentencing on Monday.

Mr Lodge said: “At around 6.30pm on March 29 2018, the victim in this case Dianne Pickard left her home and went to spend the night with her daughter.

“She returned the next morning at around 9am when she discovered the house had been broken into and the rooms had been ransacked.

“Stolen during the intrusion was a 50-inch TV and a large whisky bottle which contained coins.”

Officers attended and Shepherd’s blood was recovered from inside the house.

Shepherd admitted that he had been in the house as a guest a couple of days before the burglary with his friend Dean Pickard – the victim’s son.

He later accepted that he had been in the house that evening to help Dean Pickard, who is now dead, burgle his own mother’s home.

Defending, Bob Elias said: “He regrets his behaviour and is embarrassed by it. He is now keen to get on with his life.

“He is hard-working and skilled as a welder – a skill set which means he has work available to him. He is a good family man with a young child.

“He was on the run for some while though he was still providing for his family.

“He has now been out of trouble for some time and there is no reason whatsoever that he should be before the courts again. He has the capacity to make a handsome living and was trained by Rolls-Royce with a skill set that is valuable in society.”

The court heard how Shepherd had one previous conviction for burglary and several driving offences to his name.

Judge Gisoerano said that he had to be ‘very careful’ not to send out the wrong message to people who may be considering going on the run.

Addressing Shepherd, he said: “On the one hand here is a serious offence of burglary which would normally result in an immediate prison sentence and on the other hand you have got a good deal of personal mitigation – including your personal circumstances with your partner who at the moment is managing on her own with your young baby.

“I have got to be careful that people don’t think they can benefit from going on the run and keeping themselves out of the way for as long as possible and getting themselves together.

“But I can tell you that I have decided on balance to suspend the sentence that would otherwise been imposed and ordered to begin immediately.”

Judge Gioserano jailed Shepherd formerly of Bispham Road, Nelson, and Barnoldswick, for 15 months, suspended for two years. He must also undertake 20 rehabilitation days and 180 hours' unpaid word.