Rawlins, who had pleaded not guilty to the burglary, was found guilty following a trial by a majority of 11 to one, but continues to deny being involved.

During the trial it was said the victim of the burglary is registered disabled and has a hospital bed in the living room of his bungalow about a quarter of a mile from Rawlins’s home.

He has been described as being ‘exceptionally vulnerable’ and suffers from a variety of conditions including a number of tumours on his spinal cord.

Because he is in severe pain for a lot of the time as a result of his condition, he takes a combination of strong pain-killers including morphine, which he keeps in a safe.

In September 2012, he was at his home with a friend shortly after midnight when three or four men burst in, with black scarves over the lower part of their faces. They began shouting at the victim and his friend in a bid to intimidate them.

But the man had a BB gun which, despite his condition, he managed to grab – and the intruders fled as he began firing plastic pellets at them.

Rawlins was arrested after a police dog followed a trail from the scene of the burglary to his home, and he was later picked out on an identity procedure by the victim.

Following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report to be prepared, prosecutor Gerald Bermingham said that Rawlins had previous convictions, but had never been jailed and his only convictions in recent years had been for begging.

Nick Devine, defending, pointed out: “He continues to deny his involvement in this offence, so there is little I can say by way of mitigation.”

He commented that Rawlins had been given ‘a totally unrealistic expectation of what might happen’ by the author of the report who had recommended a non-custodial sentence.

Mr Devine, who said that Rawlins does not do drugs any more, added: “When he goes to prison today, it’s going to be a first and salutary experience for him.”

It was not referred to in court, but in July last year a 16-year-old youth was sentenced to four years detention for his part in a later raid on the same victim’s home.

On that occasion the intruders, one of whom had a gun, attacked a visitor before fleeing when the man fired at them.

Jailing Rawlins, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said the group had targeted their victim for his supply of morphine, and despite his continued claims of innocence, she had to sentence him in accordance with the jury’s verdict.

She told him: “The only reason it came to nothing is that your victim had the presence of mind to get a BB gun and shoot at you all.

“This is an extremely vulnerable man who suffers from considerable pain and is targeted in his own home in the early hours of the morning.”

And referring to sentencing guidelines, she added: “There was clearly planning, it was a group attack, and it is aggravated by the fact that disguises were worn. It must fall high in the range.”