A serial thief was able to return to a life of crime after a blunder led to him being released early from a prison sentence.
Alexander O’Rourke, who has committed a string of break-ins in the past, was locked up last year.
However, he served just over six months of his two-year jail term before bosses at Low Moss Prison released him...despite protests from O’Rourke that they had got it wrong.
Now he could avoid the customary recall to complete the rest of the prison sentence imposed at Paisley Sheriff Court in August last year.
Solicitors acting on his behalf believe such a move would be incompetent as he had not been lawfully released from prison.
And that could mean he will have served only a quarter of the jail term imposed by Sheriff Mhairi MacTaggart.
O’Rourke was already banged up in 2010 when he was hauled back to court to plead guilty to another series of break-ins before he received that sentence.
Now another Sheriff has sought clarification on what went wrong.
The revelation about the premature release came as 41-year-old former Renfrewshire Council road-sweeper O’Rourke appeared back in the dock to plead guilty to his latest crime – the theft of three computer monitors from Mitchell Hire Drive, in Abercorn Street, Paisley, on May 18 this year – just six weeks after he was mistakenly freed.
The court was told he removed a piece of metal sheeting from the roof to lower himself inside the depot, causing £200 worth of damage to the building.
Last August, the same court heard how O’Rourke was a bungling housebreaker who invariably left a calling card as he committed crimes while drunk or on drugs.
On separate occasions, he left behind clues which would lead detectives straight to him, including footprints, fingerprints and trails of blood from injuries he had suffered while carrying out his crimes.
Among the buildings he targeted was St Columba’s Church, in Amochrie Road, Paisley, where he left a trail of destruction in his wake.
O’Rourke used a metal bar to force his way into the church on March 15, 2010, before ransacking cupboards and drawers.
He then used a wrench to break open doors and dragged a safe downstairs before trying to cut it open.
When horrified office bearers discovered the church lying open the next morning and went inside, they found numerous items strewn around a blood-spattered floor.
Among the items was an Irn-Bru can which was later examined and found to have samples of O’Rourke’s DNA.
The repair bill for the damage caused ran to £2,000.
O’Rourke also broke into the Scottish Enterprise offices in Causeyside Street, Paisley, and targeted houses in the town’s Morar Drive and Lounsdale Road.
When he made his latest court appearance on Wednesday, defence agent Rhona Lynch said it was unbelievable that her client had been allowed his freedom after serving such a short portion of the two-year sentence, having been liberated on March 7, despite his protests to prison staff.
“It appears that he was released in March by mistake,” she added. “He should not have been released until August and he drew that to the attention of staff at Low Moss.”
Sheriff Colin Pettigrew deferred sentence to seek clarification of the points raised by Ms Lynch and she confirmed she would be preparing a legal challenge to any move to have her client returned to court to complete any of the unserved portion of his last jail term.
However, O’Rourke was warned he can expect to be sent to prison again for his latest crime.
At an earlier court hearing, it was stated that Paisley man O’Rourke embarked on his life of crime at the age of 16.
He has no fewer than 26 previous convictions for housebreaking.
Last night, the Scottish Prison Service told the Paisley Daily Express they were not aware of an error in relation to O’Rourke’s release date.