A PROLIFIC conman - dubbed the ‘Headington door knocker’- who preyed on the generosity of the public has escaped with a community penalty.

James Lennon, of no fixed abode, carried out a six-month crime wave of fraud offences across the city between June and November this year, and ran from court after his hearing yesterday.

On many of the incidents, Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard at his sentencing yesterday, the 45-year old claimed as part of his scam to be an Oxford University engineer at Keble College.

Knocking on the doors of various addresses in the eastern part of the city, Lennon would make up fake accounts of being locked out of his house and asked each of his victim's for cash, claiming it was for travel expenses.

Each time, the court heard, he would promise to pay his victims back, but each time he was never heard from again.

Before the hearing, one of the victims of the scam, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Oxford Mail: "He was very convincing.

"I don't think of myself as being vulnerable, I am fairly vigilant."

Police said earlier this month they were looking for a man after a series of requests for money in the Headington area.

During the hunt for Mr Lennon, The Oxford Mail passed information to the police that had been supplied by readers after the appeal was first made.

Detailing the four incidents of fraud by false representation yesterday prosecutor Anne Sawyer-Brandish said that Lennon - who admitted all four counts last week - had taken a total of £67 from his unsuspecting victims.

In one case, she told magistrates, his victim did not have any cash on them and so went to a nearby cash machine and handed over £30.

Ms Sawyer-Brandish added that Lennon also had numerous previous convictions for other dishonesty offences and had previously served time behind bars.

The latest series of offences, the court heard, were committed while he was subject to a period of post-sentence supervision for one such stint in prison.

In mitigation, magistrates were told that Lennon had carried out the door knocking scam as a means to fund his drug habit, but had since taken steps to tackle his addition for good.

Defending, Richard Denczak said that his client's cocaine habit saw Lennon regularly spending up to £40 a day on the class A drugs.

He said: “These are not particularly pleasant offences. This is a man who, to put it bluntly, has got a shocking record, he would be the first to admit that.

“The reason he committed these offences were quite simply to get money to support not only himself but to continue his drug habit.

“He is extremely remorseful, he knows he was wrong and he knows there was an element of breach of trust there and he is ashamed to have committed these offences.

“I would urge you not to send him to prison today, he needs a chance and a chance to prove to the court and to his family that he can turn his life around.”

Sentencing, presiding magistrate Shahin Bekhradnia said that the offences were so serious they had to be met with a custodial sentence, albeit one which she could suspend.

She said: “You have a very poor record of dishonesty and you are trying to persuade us you are turning over a new leaf.

“What you have just done was committed while under [post-sentence] supervision so one would have hoped you would have learned your lesson earlier.

“I suppose most people at some point in their life do turn over a new leaf […] because having a drug habit can be lethal.”

Lennon was given a 32-week jail term, suspended for 18 months – made up of eight weeks for each of the four counts of fraud to run consecutively with each other.

He was also made subject to a community order to include rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days and must pay a victim surcharge of £115, court costs of £85 and compensation to his victims of £67.