A GROUP of residents and farmers who set up a road block in a national park to catch three metal thieves have been praised by police.

After one of the thieves, who were all from the Darlington area, was jailed at Northallerton Magistrates Court yesterday, police said the conviction was due to the vigilance and quick thinking of North York Moors residents who witnessed some of the thefts.

Magistrates heard a walker crossing Cringle Moor, between Carlton-in-Cleveland and Chop Gate, had raised the alarm on Saturday, September 1, last year after spotting a white van which stopped at a gate which was securing livestock in a field.

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Two men got out of the van, took the gate off its hinges and placed it in the rear of the van, before taking another nearby gate. After being alerted to the thefts, the gates’ owner saw a van travelling down a dead-end road an hour later and noticed farm gates sticking out of the rear doors.

The farmer called the police before setting up a road block with other residents. When the van later returned with a farmer following behind it, the residents at the road block challenged the three men inside the van.

David Welsh, 34, of Dinsdale Crescent, Darlington, was sentenced to 12 weeks’ prison and disqualified from driving for three years after being found guilty of two counts of theft, driving while uninsured and while disqualified.

Appearing alongside Welsh, Richard Clark, 25, of Harry Street, Darlington, was found guilty of two counts of thefts and was remanded in custody, ahead of being sentenced at Teesside Crown Court.

Liam Robinson, 19, of Thorntree Gardens, Middleton St George, admitted two counts of theft at an earlier hearing and was given a 12-month supervised community order on January 30.

PC Alastair Gill praised the residents for attending court to give evidence to help convict the men.

He said: “This is an excellent example of members of the local community standing together, saying no to criminals and stopping them in their tracks.

“As for the three men in this case, their audacity was quite unbelievable.

"Within two hours of stealing the gates, they had tried to sell them to another farmer who lived about a mile down the road from where they were stolen.”