A TEENAGE burglar “just, and only just” escaped being locked up after a house was burgled and the occupant’s car was burnt out.

Scott Fitzgerald broke into a property in Herschel Crescent, Littlemore, and took a handbag containing the keys to a Mazda RX8 sports car, later found burnt out in Blackbird Leys.

Oxford Crown Court Recorder Matthew Lowe said he “hesitated long and hard” before imposing a non-custodial sentence on the 19-year-old, who got to the bag through an unlocked kitchen window.

Fitzgerald admitted burglary and theft on the basis that he facilitated the stealing of the car by someone else but did not actually take it himself.

The incident happened overnight on August 26.

Lucy Tapper, defending, said her client, of Alice Smith Square in Littlemore, “was very drunk at the time”.

She added: “He’s much the sort of person who could be talked into, led into, that type of offence, rather than instigating it himself”.

Miss Tapper continued: “He is considered to be conscientious, honest, friendly, personable and helpful, so that these offences are out of character.”

Recorder Lowe gave Fitzgerald a 12-month youth-detention term, suspended for two years.

He ordered that he carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work, adhere to a four-month night-time curfew and take part in a restorative-justice programme with six months’ supervision.

He said: “The burglary in particular is a very, very serious offence.

“It involves a night-time burglary of an occupied dwelling.

“It involves the violation of somebody’s home. It’s not simply the theft of property, people are left with a real sense of disturbance and violation.

“I sentence you on the basis of plea, which indicates you weren’t aware and played no part in the burning out of that vehicle.

“I’ve hesitated long and hard before coming to the decision that ultimately I have. I’m just, and only just, persuaded to suspend the sentence of detention that I’m going to pass on you.”

He added at Friday’s hearing: “You have come very, very close to going through that door to the cells rather than this one [back into court].”