A KINGSWINFORD man who told police an innocent woman was a handbag snatcher to protect his girlfriend - the real culprit - has avoided jail.

Darren Whitehouse told officers a "cock and bull story" Recorder Christopher Millington QC said, and as a result the other woman was arrested.

But after being interviewed the truth quickly came out and Whitehouse, who told police the snatcher had run straight through his home into the garden and over a fence, was charged.

The Recorder at Wolverhampton Crown Court said the innocent woman had been drinking with friends in a Kingswinford pub when her handbag was grabbed by a woman who ran away from the scene.

She was pursued and seen to go into the home of Whitehouse using a key but when police went to the house he maintained the culprit was another woman he named.

The Recorder said: "This woman was arrested for an offence your partner committed. Your actions had very serious consequences for that person."

He said recent problems with drugs and alcohol had clearly affected the behaviour of Whitehouse and the offence had "damaged" the innocent victim.

Whitehouse, aged 23, of Cot Lane, admitted assisting an offender and was given a nine-month jail term suspended for a year and placed on supervision for a year.

The Recorder said: "I am going to give you a chance so you can prove to the court you can keep out of trouble. Take advantage of the opportunity you have been given."

He made it a condition of the supervision order that Whitehouse attends the Alcohol Education Group.

Sati Ruck, prosecuting, told the court Whitehouse's girlfriend was later arrested by the police and her case had been dealt with by Dudley magistrates.