A PROFESSIONAL burglar who was spared jail after he broke into an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer’s house in Swindon to feed his drug habit, has been sent to prison by England and Wales’ most senior judge.

Russell Bastow, of Conan Doyle Walk, Liden, received a 12-month suspended sentence at Swindon Crown Court in May after pleading guilty to burglary.

That was despite a string of previous convictions, and sentencing guidelines which state that, if anyone is convicted of a third burglary, they should face a jail term with a three-year starting point. Bastow, 29, and a heroin addict since the age of 12, was given one last chance after the sentencing judge heard that he was in a steady relationship, had accommodation and wanted to go straight.

He was ordered to observe a curfew, attend drug rehabilitation courses and meet a number of other conditions, while his sentence was suspended for 18 months. This week, following a challenge by England and Wales’ top law officer, the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, Bastow’s sentence was ruled “unduly lenient” by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge.

Describing Bastow’s 88-year-old victim as “vulnerable”, Lord Judge – sitting with Mr Justice Butterfield and Mr Justice Flaux – said there was no “justification” for the decision to spare him jail.

Lord Judge imposed a two-and-a-half-year sentence, giving Bastow – who had 38 previous convictions for 131 offences – credit for the fact that he had pleaded guilty and had spent some time on a curfew.

He said: “Bastow burgles in order to feed his drug habit.

“Maybe the habit makes it impossible for him to resist the temptation.

“But there is no evidence to justify the conclusion that the time has come to indicate real genuine improvement or the habit of resorting to burglaries has been broken.”