THE mum of a quick-thinking paperboy who helped catch the teenager who stole his bike said she did not want the culprit jailed.
The 14-year-old was targeted on his Citizen round by a 16-year-old thief.
When he later recognised the older boy leaving a fish and chip shop, he took a picture of him on his phone before handing it to police.
The 16-year-old criminal, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted stealing two bikes and committing two burglaries at Cheltenham Youth Court. But he kept his freedom after magistrates heard he had been in 12 different foster homes.
"We nearly did not go through with it because we thought he had a tough life and had made a mistake," said the victim's mum.
"Hearing that he has been through that many homes, it's very upsetting. I am glad the court case happened because hopefully he will get the help he needs."
Prosecutor Sharon Jomâa said the paperboy was left to continue his round on foot on April 13 after the teenager followed him and took the £235 bike.
A week earlier, the same teenager stole another £150 bicycle from a shopper in Horton Road. And he broke into two homes in Tuffley on June 28 last year. With another teenager, who also cannot be named, he stole a games console and controllers, £10 in cash and a mobile phone from a home in Woods Orchard.
Ms Jomâa said the youths took a knife from the kitchen and slashed a pair of trousers to get a wallet from the pocket, in a room where the occupant's elderly father-in-law was asleep.
On the same evening, the pair took a television, £50 in cash, a mobile phone, a handbag and house keys from a house in Fox Elms Road.
Jon Lynch, defending, described the boy's actions as "deplorable and disgusting".
He said the 16-year-old had been in 12 different foster placements, through no fault of his own, in the months leading up to the crimes.
He said: "He knows the difference from right and wrong and seems to have lost his direction. He shows great intelligence and good commitment to change his ways. He is petrified of being sent to custody."
Magistrates spared the boy jail and ordered him to carry out a 12-month referral order and pay £30 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. His co-defendant was earlier given 20 months in a youth detention centre for the burglaries and an unrelated theft.