A would-be thief was moments from death when a security guard interrupted him just as he was about to dig through a live cable on a Washington building site.
Andrew Proudfoot, 40, put his life on the line after his benefits were stopped and had hoped to make some quick cash to buy Christmas presents, Sunderland magistrates heard.
Mr Proudfoot is possibly quite fortunate that he is sitting here today, because of what happened on the Friday before ChristmasPaul Anderson, prosecuting
He went to Barratt Homes’ Teal Farm housing development in the early hours of December 18, with a hacksaw and a spade, with a view to stealing copper cables, the court was told.
“Mr Proudfoot is possibly quite fortunate that he is sitting here today, because of what happened on the Friday before Christmas,” prosecutor Paul Anderson said.
“He comes to the attention of a security guard at 4am, who sees a man acting suspiciously. He shouts at him and he makes off, in the direction of a wooded area, leaving the live cable exposed.
“Had he dug into it with a spade he would not be alive today.”
Proudfoot, of Barmston Centre, Washington, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to attempted theft.
Jason Smith, defending, said Proudfoot’s benefits were sanctioned in September because he missed an appointment with the Job Centre and he had been reliant on help from others.
“You get the thrust of it,” Mr Smith said. “Andrew has perhaps taken a risk, a risk to his own person of anything else. In September last year he had no benefits whatsoever. He lived on the charity of others.
“It’s got to Christmas and he’s got desperate. He wanted to buy Christmas presents for his family, he’s got children and nieces and nephews.
“He’s been very, very stupid. He’s been out of trouble for in excess of a year.
“He was tired of asking for charity and he took things into his own hands. He really is sorry.”
Proudfoot was given a 12-month conditional discharge and was told to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. Bench chairwoman Janet Hutton added: “You made nothing out of this and you put yourself at considerable risk.”