A mother-of-four who acted as a getaway driver during August's riots has dodged jail because she has four children.

Jobless Atasha Leacock, from Elms Crescent, Clapham, was filmed parking her Ford Focus behind Curry's in New Cross, south-east London, so fellow rioters could fill it with stolen goods.

Looters, wearing balaclavas, darted across the road from the shop with boxes of stock ready to put in the 32-year-old's car.

But after one of the thieves got hit on the head with a brick she panicked and fled with just one plasma television, Inner Crown Court heard on Friday (December 2). Despite being caught re-handed Leacock claimed she had not gone to join the riots but to pop into the local Sainbury's for some shopping.

Gregor McKinley, prosecuting, quizzed her on her real intentions for heading to the riots.

He said: "You knew what was going on. You stopped and left your vehicle open so that articles could be put into your vehicle."

Leacock tried to convince the court she did not see the large box box containing a large plasma television on the passenger seat.

But Judge Roger Chapple poured scorn on her claims, describing them as "absurd".

He said: "The way in which your car is parked makes that a simple nonsense. I do not accept your account about the box - you simply could not miss it.

"It is there in the front passenger seat, pressing up against the driver."

The court heard Leacock and her children have no contact with their father, so there was no one to look after them if she was jailed.

She was subsequently handed a 36-week sentence, suspended for two years, plus she must complete 120 hours' unpaid work.

Judge Chapple added: "The basis on which I sentence is that you drove to the shop knowing that the riots were under way.

"You aren't the innocent victim of circumstance which you suggest. I'm not sending you to prison today. I make it clear that's because of your children, not you."