A convicted burglar who broke into an artists’ workshop has been fined just 1p after a deal was agreed with the prosecution.
Michael Leslie’s DNA was found at the scene in Cowley, Oxford, where a laptop and several chequebooks went missing.
The 29-year-old already had two previous convictions for burglary and had he been found guilty a third time, he would have received a mandatory three year term.
However, prosecutors decided to charge him with a lesser 19th Century vagrancy offence when they realised he was going to admit breaking into the property but deny burglary.
Oxford Crown Court heard how Leslie had smashed a window to get into The Workshop and had subsequently fallen asleep.
He was convicted under the Vagrancy Act 1824, fined a penny and allowed to walk free after spending four months on remand.
Judge Anthony King criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for giving only “what I call loose thought” to the case.
He went on: “If you were guilty of burglary, I would now be giving you quite a significant length of sentence.
“However the Crown has taken the view that you are not guilty of burglary. I would advise you not to find other premises in which you wish to sleep which are not your own.”
The judge offered Leslie an extra day in custody if he was unable to pay the fine.
Charlotte Berry, who works at The Workshop, said she thought Leslie should have been put in prison.
She told The Daily Mail: “I just think it’s a joke. Entry was forced, things were stolen from the building and the workshop was smashed up and thoroughly searched.
“I don’t understand how he could possibly avoid a burglary charge in light of that.”