A house burglar has avoided jail after writing a letter apologising for his actions.
Gavin Hughes instead received an eight-month suspended prison sentence for breaking into a home in Belfast.
A judge who read the 33-year-old’s note of contrition accepted it was part of a sincere attempt to turn his life around.
Hughes admitted stealing £100 in cash and damaging a suitcase during a raid on the property at Sliabh Dubh View in July 2016.
A woman who lived there with her husband returned home to discover they had been burgled.
Hughes, a mechanic from Springfield Park in the city, was linked to the break-in by fingerprint evidence.
At Belfast Magistrates’ Court defence barrister Michael Boyd accepted the offence normally led to imprisonment.
But he revealed that Hughes had gathered together £400 in cash to pay back his victims for what happened.
Mr Boyd also handed up a letter penned by his client for District Judge Fiona Bagnall to read.
“It’s been written in a very genuine way, setting out his feelings about what he did,” the barrister said.
“He asked me specifically if it could be provided to the householders – it may be some consolation to them.”
Passing sentence, Mrs Bagnall stressed that the starting point for burglaries is immediate custody.
But she told Hughes: “I’m impressed particularly with this letter you have written to the court.
“I do accept it comes across as sincere, and that you’re genuinely trying to change your life.
“For that reason I’m going to suspend the sentence.”
Handing down an eight-month term, suspended for two years, the judge also ordered him to pay £300 to the victims.
She acknowledged: “That in no way compensates them for the upset and trauma they have gone through in this experience, but that’s the sentence I will impose.”
As he left the dock Hughes responded by telling Mrs Bagnall: “Thank you.”