Men who broke into a bus depot and ransacked it causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage have avoided jail sentences.
Kevin Steele and Ian Byrne were told they deserve to go to prison but that in the current pandemic, they were not ‘dangers to the community’.
Instead, they were freed and told to ‘be good citizens’ by a judge.
The pair broke into the Go North East depot, in North Shields, near Newcastle, while drunk.
They stole a TV from the wall, coins and food from a vending machine.
Now burglars Steele and Byrne, who had been remanded in custody, have been freed on suspended sentences while Darren Robertson, who admitted handling stolen goods, has been given a community order at Newcastle Crown Court.
Judge Amanda Rippon told them: ‘Each of you have got bad records and deserve prison sentences but in the current situation I have decided that you are not, I don’t think, dangers to the community.
‘The better option is to find an alternative and see whether the time has come for you to recognise you need to grow up and become responsible members of the country, rather than breaking into people’s properties and stealing from them.’
The judge added: ‘It is the time to be good citizens.
‘The world is upside down at the moment and you are about to join it.
‘Make sure you join it responsibly, you don’t want to come back in front of me.’
The break-in happened at the Go North East depot on Norham Road, North Shields, around 12.45am on July 4.
Steele and Byrne took a TV from the wall and carried it out into a Ford Focus they had taken to the scene.
They then went back in and damaged vending machines in the canteen, forcing them open and removing 41 pound coins as well as food.
The court heard they caused £547 of damage during the break-in.
Steele, 35, of Dudley and Byrne, 37, of North Shields, admitted burglary and were each given 16 months suspended for two years with a three month curfew.
Robertson, 31, of Shields, admitted handling stolen goods and was given a two year community order.
John Wilkinson, for Steele, had urged the judge to take a more ‘constructive’ approach than jailing him.
Adam Birkby, for Byrne, said he had a long-standing addiction to class A drugs and had served the equivalent of a 14 month sentence on remand.
Penny Hall, for Robertson, said his involvement was limited.