A WOULD-BE thief who helped his pigeon-fancying pal hatch a bird-brained scheme to steal from a neighbour has avoided being sent to jail.

Graham Kyle, 31, helped John Gaughan, 56, try to pinch scrap wood so it could be used to build a new dookit for his birds.

Gaughan had spotted the wood lying in a back garden that he could see from his own home. A few days later, he drunkenly decided to try to retrieve the wood but was spotted fleeing the scene, along with Kyle.

At Paisley Sheriff Court last month, both men admitted a charge of being in the grounds of a house in Kelburn Street, Barrhead, so that “in all the circumstances, it may be reasonably inferred” they intended to commit theft.

Procurator fiscal depute Frank Clarke said residents in the adjacent street of Levernside Avenue saw Gaughan and Kyle scaling a fence from a garden in Kelburn Street into their own back garden and then running off down the street.

When the woman who lived in the house targeted by Gaughan and Kyle returned home, she noticed her gate had been broken and her garage door was open.

Defence solicitor Gemma Rathey said Gaughan had wanted to use the wood to build a new pigeon hutch for his birds.

She explained: “He had seen some bits of wood lying in the garden there. As I understand it, he has pigeons and he was building a new pigeon hut. In infinite stupidity, he inquired if that wood was still there, as it would be of assistance to him in building this hut.”

After hearing Gaughan has the potentially fatal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), has recently suffered a heart attack and a stroke and had not committed any criminal offences since 2005, Sheriff Tom McCartney fined him £360, reduced from £400 as he admitted his guilt on the day his trial was due to start.

A second charge that both men had been in a garden in Levernside Avenue while intending to steal was dropped by prosecutors.

After hearing that Kyle, of Gertrude Place, Barrhead, has a lengthy record of previous convictions and struggles with alcohol and drugs, Sheriff McCartney called for him to be assessed by social workers ahead of sentencing and adjourned the case until last week.

Defence solicitor Charlie McCusker said Kyle was the carer for his mother, was on drugs at the time of the offence and would benefit from some assistance in the community.

As he spared Kyle jail, Sheriff McCartney told him: “I doubt you need me to tell you that, because of your record of previous offending, this is an offence where a prison sentence is very much likely.

“That having been said, the nature of the offence is such the sentence would be a relatively short one and, having read the reports, it does seem there’s a better alternative in the form of a Community Payback Order.”

He placed Kyle on a 12-month Community Payback Order, which will see him supervised by social workers for a year and carry out 115 hours of unpaid work within six months, cut from 130 hours as he had admitted his guilt.