A BURGLAR involved in a £5,000 raid which flooded a disused mill kept his freedom – because the incident landed him in a wheelchair and the public are now going to be safe from his thieving ways, a court heard.

Thomas Kelly, 39, who offended more than 30 offences on his record, shattered his ankle when he plunged 15ft from a wall while trying to escape police at the former McBride’s factory in Ruskin Street, Burnley.

A wound he has also suffered to his leg has not healed, probably due to almost three decades of taking heroin, the court was told.

The defendant, who has a record for break-ins, is now immobile and looked after by a carer.

The town’s crown court was told Kelly, said by the prosecution to have fractured his ankle, claimed he fell because the police had parva sprayed him.

Judge Simon Newell told him: “I am not a civil court and I do not pass sentence in any way on the basis that the police acted improperly in the way they detained you.”

Kelly, of Conway Grove, Burnley, admitted burglary.

He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with 12 months’ supervision and a 12-month drugs rehabilitation requirement.

The hearing was told Kelly owned up to causing flood damage of between £4,000 and £5,000 at the premises, trying to remove copper piping, along with an accomplice.

The defendant had been looking for anything he could sell to fund his heroin habit.

In 2003, Kelly was also spared jail after he broke into a house in Burnley and stole property including jewellery and cash totalling £1,245.

Laura Heywood, defending in the latest case, said the defendant was visited every other day by a nurse at home and was due to see a specialist in July.

Kelly had been addicted to heroin for 27 years but this year, for the first time, had provided a negative sample.

He had managed to reduce his methadone prescription with the help of Inspire and the support of his mother, who was his full-time carer.

Passing sentence, Judge Newell told Kelly: “It may well be the leg injury is a consequence of the injury to your heel, but certainly its failure to resolve appears to be consistent with long-term heroin abuse.

“It doesn’t seem to me, because you are confined to a wheelchair, that there is as much risk to the community of this scavenging and dishonest behaviour you carried out in the past.