A BURGLAR who had his past 14 Christmas dinners in jail won his freedom yesterday to have this year's on the outside.

Dean Williams, 39, from Middlesbrough, thought twice about turning up to be sentenced yesterday, said Stephen Ashurst, defending.

Williams, of Fewston Close, Middlesbrough, was given a 12-month community rehabilitation order at Teesside Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to escaping from the police in May and stealing the handcuffs he was wearing.

When he was recaptured, he told police he fled because he was desperate for a heroin fix, said Paul Newcombe, prosecuting.

Williams had been arrested on suspicion of assault in a Stockton street but further investigation showed that he had been robbed and assaulted while trying to buy drugs.

Judge George Moorhouse told him: "Because of the exceptional circumstances of the case I can deal with you in a way which will not deprive you of your liberty.

"But you have an appalling record and if you breach this order you'll be back inside."