A BURGLAR who has struck six pharmacies over a number of years has been given a chance by the courts to spend Christmas with his family.

Craig Ralphs, of Cullerne Close in Abingdon, was brought before Oxford Crown Court on Thursday after being found guilty of breaking into a pharmacy in Abingdon.

Ralphs admitted to using a paving slab from nearby the Long Furlong Medical Centre, in Loyd Close, to smash the pharmacy’s window before stealing a number of drugs from inside.

The court heard that hundreds of packets of prescribed drugs were both stolen and left strewn outside the pharmacy, and more than £1,000 of damage caused at the pharmacy.

As the 42-year-old stood before His Honour Judge Peter Ross, the court heard how Ralphs had 116 previous offences of theft and related matters – including five previous convictions relating to pharmacy burglaries across the county.

In a final plea to Judge Ross for a chance to turn his life around, the defendant said from the dock: “Given the chance [to turn his life around] I will take it with open arms.

“I have a lovely partner and children to worry about, and I would love the chance to get back into work.”

“I have done nothing for the last three months except beat myself up about this. All I can say is I won’t let you down” he added.

In response and in returning his sentencing Judge Ross said: “You recognise you have wasted your life and I would agree with that you have.

“You are not suitable for residential rehabilitation programme as you admit in your own honesty[...]

“If I were to lock you up again you would sail through custody without any affect on you, and wouldn’t stop you offending.”

He added: “I am going to defer sentencing and have chosen the date with care – December 17.

“If you mess up you know you will be apart from your family over Christmas.”

Judge Ross deferred sentencing on a number of conditions including Mr Ralphs stays clean of drugs, attends rehabilitation courses, gets a job and does not offend again.

He added: “I make you this promise comply with that and you will not go to prison on December 17, slip up and you will get three and a half years”.

The deferral also related to one count of theft in which the court heard Ralph stole a wallet and phone from a home he visited in July.