A FORMER soldier who got hooked on heroin while trying to help an addict friend kick his habit has been given a final chance to turn his life around.

Matthew Bower was told he faced a jail sentence when he appeared in court yesterday accused of a string of offences linked to his drug addiction.

But a judge gave the 36-year-old ex-Green Howard three weeks to prove he is suitable for a community penalty which will spare him prison.

Bower was at Teesside Crown Court to be sentenced for breaching a community punishment order imposed for an affray. He was also to be punished for twice failing to surrender to custody, two thefts, one charge of handling £105 stolen from an 83-year-old woman and possessing crack cocaine.

His barrister, Richard Herrmann, argued he should be given the chance to prove he is suitable for a drug treatment and testing order.

The judge, Recorder Gillian Matthews, adjourned the case for three weeks so Bowers can be assessed.

Bowers, who rose to the rank of corporal and served in Northern Ireland during a nine-year Army career, was bailed on condition he stays with his parents in Darlington.

Mr Herrmann told the court that Bowers, of Haughton Green, Darlington, joined the Army after leaving school then went on to work as a mental health nurse and community carer.

He had not been in trouble until three years ago when he tried to help a lifelong friend beat his heroin addiction - and ended up hooked himself.