A MAN who escaped from Warrington Magistrates' Court as he was about to be sentenced will serve 42 weeks.

Lee O'Neill, of Folly Lane in Bewsey, appeared in the court on August 13 for breach of a community order previously imposed for theft offences.

The 38-year-old escaped the dock in the court room and walked free from the building, staying at large for more than a day.

Francis Willmott, prosecuting in Liverpool Crown Court today, Tuesday, said O'Neill was due to be handed an 18-week sentence when he fled.

She said once Magistrates had retired to consider their verdict, O'Neill, who was alone in the dock, asked a female to open the door from the outside and exited the courtroom.

The court heard how he 'barged' into a court usher as he passed, almost causing him to lose his balance.

Police tracked O'Neill and the female to Secker Avenue in Latchford, an address O'Neill was prohibited from visiting under the terms of a restraining order imposed in 2017.

Ms Willmott explained there was a 20 minute stand-off where the occupants refused to comply with police before O'Neill was arrested.

He was interviewed and admitted the escape from lawful custody, but said he didn't realise the restraining order was still active.

He has 39 previous convictions for 101 offences.

Michael Davies, representing O'Neill, said his client originally pleaded not guilty to common assault because he did not recall having contact with the court usher, nor did he intent to.

He added that O'Neill promptly pleaded guilty when the facts were relaid to him.

Speaking prior to sentencing through a videolink, O'Neill commented: "I just want to apologise for everything, sorry."

Recorder O'Mahony said the act of escaping the dock had required 'momentary' planning and co-ordination, but acknowledged that no violence was used in the offence.

He continued: "You managed to escape the court building and the next evening the police obtained information that you were in the Latchford area of Warrington.

"The police found you there and there was a stand-off of around 20 minutes."

Passing sentence, Recorder O'Mahony added: "You were at large for a day-and-a-half."

Helen Robinson, 45, from Bewsey, is accused of aiding O'Neill to escape lawful custody but denies the charge.

A trial is set to take place in May.