A BURGLAR has avoided jail despite stealing £1,000 of electrical equipment from a church just two weeks after being released from prison.

Jake Smith, 21, smashed his way in through a backwindow of the Apostolic Church, in London Road, Leigh, and tried to steal a safe.

Eventually, he gave up and stole a laptop bag and camera.

He was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months at Basildon Crown Court yesterday.

Charlotte Davison, prosecuting, told the court Smith, of Southchurch Road, Southend, smashed open a toilet window before clambering in.

He dumped Nescafe coffee on the kitchen floor and staff found the safe had been tampered with and dumped on a desk.

They also found a hammer belonging to Smith discarded on a chair after the burglary, on or between September 29 and October 1, last year.

The court heard police spotted Smith on a bike at about 3am on October 1. He ran off and was found hiding nearby.

He had on him a holdall containing a crowbar, chisel and sachets of Nescafe coffee.

The court heard he initially denied the break-in, telling police he had the items because he had been to his old house to pick up tools, but police later found shards of glass from a church window on his clothes.

He admitted one count of burglary when he appeared at court earlier this year.

Smith told the court he had a drug habit and had problems receiving his benefits.

Sentencing Smith, Judge William Graham, said: “You have a long record of offending and have had various punishments, including a substantial time in custody.

“This time we want to try and treat the cause of your offending.”

In addition to his suspended sentence, Smith must attend a 12-month drug rehabilitation programme.