A YOUNG motorist’s practice of repeatedly driving away from filling stations without paying for petrol proved costly.

Brian Bradley ran up a bill of £355.03 in unpaid petrol from 11 visits to forecourts late last year.

But it yesterday (Monday February 18) cost him his Peugeot 307 car, valued at £3,200, which was taken from him by a judge in a court confiscation order.

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Durham Crown Court heard that on filling the Peugeot, Bradley often signed a form saying he had insufficient funds, claiming he intended to pay within a fortnight, before leaving false details.

When he tried this rouse, however, at Morrison’s store station in Bishop Auckland, on December 12, staff recognised him and his car from four previous visits.

Lynsey Colling, prosecuting, said records showed all the bills remained outstanding.

Bradley was traced and arrested, and told police he had no intention of paying for the petrol.

Ms Colling said he claimed to have particularly targeted Morrison’s, but committed similar thefts at other filling stations, as he was short of money through a gambling addiction.

Bradley, 22, of Dilks Street, Bishop Auckland, admitted two counts of making off without payment, and asked for nine similar offences to be considered.

The court heard it put him in breach of a five month prison sentence, suspended for a year, imposed at the court in April last year after he booked into a hotel and made off with towels and bedding, without paying.

Judge Penny Moreland asked if there was any reason why Bradley should not be deprived of the car used in all the offences.

Martin Towers, mitigating, said he could not oppose such a confiscation order, but urged the judge not to activate the suspended sentence, or to ban Bradley from driving.

“He works for his uncle’s roofing business and needs to drive as they often work away and share the driving on a rota basis.”

Mr Towers added that Bradley developed a gambling problem after finding it difficult to cope with two family bereavements last year.

Judge Moreland increased the suspended sentence hanging over Bradley to six months, suspended now until October.

But she ordered confiscation of the car and told Bradley to repay the £355.03 for the stolen petrol as well as perform 150-hours’ unpaid work.