A FORMER three-strikes house burglar targeted domestic garages in a campaign of theft earlier this year, a court heard.

When he was finally stopped in his tracks, after a householder reported suspicions late at night on April 12, Darren McGowan twice spat in the face of the police officer arresting him.

Durham Crown Court heard that 34-year-old McGowan was only released from prison on licence following a previous sentence for house burglary, on January 20.

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But within a few weeks he and an unknown accomplice had broken into a number of garages in the Langley Moor area, near Durham.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said a neighbour in Langley Crescent rang police after spotting two figures making off, carrying items from the next door open garage.

McGowan was detained nearby after dropping what he was carrying, but on being placed in a police vehicle he twice spat forcefully into the face of the arresting officer.

His home was subsequently searched and a bicycle taken from a back-yard in a previous garage break-in was recovered by police.

McGowan, of High Street North, Langley Park, made admissions and pleaded ‘guilty’ to two charges of burglary of garages in Langley Crescent and Halliday Grove, Langley Moor, and assaulting a police officer.

He also asked for three further garage break-ins to be taken into consideration.

Chris Morrison, mitigating, said the defendant had initially made “progress” after his release, in January, controlling his previous problem drug taking and drinking, while also finding work.

But, when his contract with a local company ended, he reverted to crime after drinking sprees with like-minded individuals.

Following his arrest McGowan was recalled to prison to serve part of the unserved element of the previous sentence.

“He’s finally woken up to idea he’s not heading in the direction he wants to.

“There’s a feeling here there’s room to give him a chance.

“His record has been one, sadly, of the revolving door, but at 34 he knows he does not want that anymore,” added Mr Morrison.

But, jailing him for ten months, Judge Simon Hickey told McGowan that although much of the stolen property was recovered victims of his activities were left feeling “uneasy” that intruders had been in their property.

Judge Hickey said it was also not the first time the arresting officer was spat at by someone he was detaining and he previously had to undergo tests to confirm he had not contracted hepatitis C or similar diseases.