A SKIPTON rugby player narrowly avoided having a suspended prison sentence activated and being sent into custody after magistrates heard he was a credit to his club.

Jamie Carroll, 26, admitted at court today (Friday) failing to attend two unpaid work commitments which were part of a 12 week, two year suspended prison order imposed by the Skipton court in August, last year.

The court was told that Carroll, who received the order for handling stolen goods, a car, had completed just 16 of the 180 hours, leaving 164 left to do, and had completed none of the required 12 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

The probation service acknowledged playing rugby was a positive and had offered to fit in the unpaid work in the off season, when Carroll was not playing, but he had still missed his appointments, both on a Sunday.

Carroll, who admitted missing the sessions, on May 19 and on June 2, was also in regular work as a self employed roofer.

In mitigation, Keith Blackwell said Skipton Rugby Club had given Carroll a ‘glowing reference’, and read out a letter from the club which commented on his ‘outstanding commitment’ and how he was a ‘highly positive member' who showed responsibility to fellow team members and the club as a whole.

He had also been named player of the season and worked with younger members of the club, said Mr Blackwell.

“That is the kind of reference you would want from people running the community service,” said Mr Blackwell, who acknowledged that the probation service had indulged Carroll to a point by trying to fit in with his rugby.

Magistrates told Carroll, of Willow Way, that his poor compliance with the order would normally have resulted in the suspended sentence being activated and him going to prison. But, they took into account his guilty plea, that he was in employment, was contributing positively to the community and that he had not re-offended. But, they warned him a against any further breach of the order, which had been amended following poor compliance of the original order.

His order will continue until August next year and he will have to complete the remaining hours of unpaid work and rehabilitation days. For the breach, he was fined £350, with costs of £50.