AN uninvited boarder who spent the night in the home of an elderly couple without their knowledge, has been jailed for four-and-a-half months.

Michael Lee Gray broke into their home in Stanley, County Durham, in a drunken state, apparently just seeking a bed in which to sleep on November 27.

But, Durham Crown Court heard that he also threw up over furnishings in the living room and was found fast asleep in the spare bedroom by the male householder the following morning.

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He was challenged by the shocked resident and police were alerted, arresting Gray at the property on suspicion of burglary.

Andrew White, prosecuting, said entry was made via a forced patio door, causing £173 worth of damage in the process.

Gray told police he had been out drinking with friends and took a taxi home.

He said he had no memory of what took place after he got out of the taxi, as he considered himself to have been, “ten out of ten drunk”.

But he accepted he must have caused the damage, thinking it was his own home he had reached, in his drunken condition.

The 28-year-old defendant, of Skiddaw Court, Stanley, who has six convictions for seven mainly drink-related offences, admitted a charge of criminal damage, which put him in breach of a four-month suspended sentence imposed in March, last year.

Mr White said it was accepted that Gray had not broken into the house intending to steal anything, so it was not charged as burglary.

But the court heard it has had a “devastating” effect on the victims who are now fearful in their own home.

They were, however, offered some reassurance at the previous hearing when Gray, asked specifically by Judge Christopher Prince, confirmed he had not deliberately targeted their home and merely went there “randomly” in his drunken state.

Neil Bennett, mitigating, presented character references to the court on the defendant’s behalf and also a letter of “heartfelt” apology written by him to the victims.

Mr Bennett urged Judge Prince to avoid passing an immediate prison sentence, on the defendant, who has never previous been jailed.

But, imposing the prison sentence, Judge Prince said that Gray continues to commit offences after binge drinking and has to learn a harsh lesson.

An indefinite restraining order, preventing the defendant contacting or going within 200-metres of the couple’s home, was also put in place.

In what the judge described as “possibly a first” in the courts, the sentencing hearing was relayed via video link to the home of the victims, who both suffer various serious ailments.

On their request, the screen was blanked out in court when the defendant appeared in the dock, so he could not see them.

Addressing the couple, in Gray’s absence, Judge Prince said: “Durham Police like to be innovative and lead the way.

“They are very happy to have established this live link so you can see what happens in court.”

He added that it was in keeping with the force’s positive approach to upholding the so-called Victim’s Charter.