A DRUG-ADDICTED knifeman who tried to rob a bus driver but fled empty-handed has started a four-and-a-half year jail term.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Bill Kay's intended victim was a "robust" man, who kicked out at him and had suffered no long-standing effects because of the defendant's actions -- but a judge said public servants would be protected.

Kay, who was led away from the dock hours after his partner miscarried their first child, sobbed as Recorder Yvonne Coppel told him he had lied to the police and probation service.

She said Kay had claimed a group of Asians had been behind the offence and had made him do it but they did not exist. The defendant knew exactly what time the bus would be arriving in Water, Rossendale, and was seen by a neighbour with a scarf around his face just minutes before the police arrived.

The judge added she accepted no violence was used, that the defendant was in poor health because of his misuse of drugs and had never been to custody before.

But, she went on: "People who drive public service vehicles are particularly vulnerable to this sort of offence. Those who rob or attempt to rob by threats of violence will receive severe punishment." Kay, of Burnley Road East, Water, had earlier been convicted of attempted robbery after a trial.

Michael Lavery, defending, said Kay was not the strongest individual and was fearful about what was going to happen to him.

It was hard to argue against custody, but if prison it must be, the court could pass as short a sentence as was possible. He added that a short sentence was likely to be as effective as a long one because of the defendant's health and because it was his first time inside.