AN OFFENDER who thought he had turned a corner when he got a place in a Blackburn hostel became a victim when his first benefits payment was stolen while he slept.

Blackburn magistrates heard Joseph Thomas Fox reacted by going out and trying to steal a £1,400 sewing machine but he was detained by staff.

Fox, 52, of the Salvation Army Hostel, Heaton Street, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to theft from Hobkirks Sewing Machines, theft from Home Bargains and Iceland in Blackpool and assaulting two member of staff at Home Bargains and criminal damage at that store.

He was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison.

Parveen Akhtar, prosecuting, said the assaults in Blackburn were on female members of staff who challenged Fox while he was attempting to steal.

He threw a basket which hit one member of staff and a bag of coal at the other.

He went into Hobkirks on Darwen Street and attempted to steal a sewing machine on Tuesday.

Trevor Colebourne, defending, said his client had been out of trouble for three and a half years before things went wrong for him last Christmas and he ended up being jailed.

"He was effectively on the park bench with no money and things were grim," said Mr Colebourne. "He got a place at the Blackburn hostel and was able to make a claim for benefits."

He said Fox received his first payment of £217 and used some of it to buy food and other items.

"He went to sleep that night and when he woke up someone had been in his room and stolen everything," said Mr Colebourne.