The bizarre behaviour of a knife-wielding robber from Leighton Buzzard led a judge to take an exceptional course and not send him straight to prison.
Even Christopher Foster’s lawyer said he had never defended a knife-point robber who had not been jailed.
Luton Crown Court heard that 26-year-old Foster, who had never broken the law before, pulled a knife on a man leaving a Dunstable pizza shop in the early hours of December 28 last year, jabbing him in the chest with it and demanded his car keys.
He then drove the silver Nissan Micra aimlessly around the town for a couple of hours, until he saw a police car. Then he stopped and handed over the car keys.
The car’s owner, Intukhab Zaidi, who had been scared when he saw the knife, got his car back, unmarked and with a full tank of petrol, said prosecutor Michael Edmunds.
Foster, who failed a breath test, admitted he was very depressed at the time and had little memory of where he had driven or when he had filled the car with petrol.
Stefan Weidmann, defending said: “For a knife point robber not to go to prison would be totally exceptional. I have never represented one who has not gone to prison.
“His remorse for this ugly, ugly crime is genuine and runs deep. It seems he took utter leave of his senses that night.”
Foster, a labourer, of Cooper Drive pleaded guilty to robbery, driving with excess alcohol and without a licence or insurance.
On Friday, he was given a two-year jail sentence suspended for two years. He was also ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work, be on a night time curfew for six months and pay £1,135 in costs and compensation. He was also banned from driving for two years.
Recorder Christopher Carr told him that sentencing guidelines indicated the penalty should be one of immediate custody. He said: “But you are not someone who has been in trouble before and there are bizarre elements to this case. You drove aimlessly around, and you did not take the car to sell it or get money from it.
“In my view these are bizarre one-off circumstances and I am prepared to suspend the sentence. I am confident you will never be in court again.”
Awarding the victim £500 compensation the judge added: “That is scarce recompense for what must have been a frightening experience.”
Mr Weidmann said since the offence Foster had sought help for depression and given up using cannabis completely.