A man who said he found himself the unwitting getaway driver for a smash and grab on a supermarket has been spared jail.

Ben Hawkins, of Plumpton Avenue, Hornchurch, was asked by three men including a former schoolfriend and an acquaintance to drive them in his own car to the Tesco in Theydon Bois on September 30 last year.

He stayed in the car while Connor Emeny, Aaron House and Ryan Keeling broke into the supermarket and stole stock and bottles of spirits worth a total of £3,170.

Hawkins, 28, at Chelmsford Crown Court had earlier pleaded guilty to burglary and driving without insurance.

Today at Chelmsford Crown Court, Judge Patricia Lynch QC imposed a 12-month prison term, suspended for two years on Hawkins, and ordered him to pay £200 compensation.

The same judge had dealt with the co-defendants earlier at a separate hearing.

Emeny, 27, of Lynton Avenue, Romford; House, 29, of no fixed address but from the Romford area; and Keeling, 20, of Prospect Place, Romford, had all pleaded guilty to the burglary.

They were each given 15-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, with 150 hours' unpaid work, a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement; and 19 sessions on a Thinking Skills programme.

The court heard today that Hawkins was a former schoolmate of Emeny and knew House.

He had been drinking heavily and was on his way to buy cigarettes when the other three drove by.

They joined him in his car and after getting the cigarettes asked him to drive to Theydon Bois to pick "something up they had left there earlier".

Hawkins told the judge that with hindsight he should have recognised they had illicit plans. He stayed in the vehicle and had nothing to do with breaking in.

Judge Lynch told Hawkins: "It's not the best mitigation in the world to say 'I was too drunk or too stupid to refuse'."

She added that he had as much responsibility for the joint enterprise as his co-defendants, but it said that it was a lesser role.

Hawkins was also ordered to pay £200 compensation and given six points on his licence for having no insurance.

There was no charge of driving with excess alcohol as he was not tested, the court was told.