A PROLIFIC offender who had embarked on the “ultra-marathon” of drug rehabilitation blamed police for a blip in his progress.

Blackburn magistrates heard Joseph Farrelly Phillips was on his way back to the supported accommodation where he was staying when he was stopped and searched by police.

The delay meant he missed the curfew deadline and was not allowed into the property.

And while he was walking the streets he reverted to type, broke into a parked car and stole a bank card which he later used twice.

Nick Dearing, defending, said it was significant that his client had only used the card to buy a packet of cigarettes from Kitchens petrol station on Trafalgar Street, Burnley, and a meal from McDonald’s on the same street.

“Many people who get their hands on contactless cards run riot with them,”said Mr Dearing.

He said Phillips had been using heroin since he was 15 but had come out of his last prison sentence free of the drug and determined to make a fresh start.

“He is staying at Gateway and engaging with Inspire and has reached the stage where he is starting to feel ashamed of his actions,” said Mr Dearing.

“Recovery from addiction will take a long time, it’s not a marathon it is an ultra-marathon which he has embarked on.

“He has been doing his level best to change and if the police hadn’t stopped him that night he would have been home in time and this would not have happened,” he said.

Catherine Allan, prosecuting, said the car had been parked outside the owners house and when she came down the following morning she found door lock barrel had been removed.

The owner had to take a day off work to sort out her car and paid £380 towards the costs.

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Phillips pleaded guilty to theft of a bank card and two charges of fraudulent use of the card.

He was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £200 compensation.

Passing sentence the chairman of the magistrates said the easiest thing would have been to send Phillips straight back to prison.

“It appears the light may have come on at last and that is what has influenced our decision this morning,” he said.