A ONE-MAN crimewave is behind bars to the relief of a town’s traders and police.

James Anthony Hunter was responsible for a spate of shop thefts, and two store break-ins, blighting commercial premises in Stockton over a period of months.

Despite being arrested several times, he was bailed by magistrates, only to pick up where he left off.

Durham Crown Court heard Hunter stole to feed himself and to buy drugs, often targeting the same premises on successive days.

During his spree he stole from six premises, some on repeat occasions, as well as breaking into a staff changing room and a hair salon, until he was remanded in custody, on October 15.

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said in total he stole £899.21 worth of goods.

Hunter, 32, of Hartington Street, Stockton, admitted 12 thefts, two burglaries, one attempted burglary, threatening words and behaviour plus possessing heroin.

The court heard his record features 77 convictions for 191 offences, including 133 for theft.

Chris Baker, mitigating, said Hunter suffers mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, after witnessing the death of a friend in a drowning tragedy.

Mr Baker said Hunter was homeless and living in a tent during the summer.

“He accepts he has a bad record for dishonesty and misusing substances. A large part of the reason for stealing was to feed himself as much as anything else.”

Jailing him for two years, Judge Jonathan Carroll told him: “You have a dreadful criminal record, much of it for shop thefts.

“You have repeatedly been granted bail, some might say when you had extinguished your right to bail.

“There’s a sheer persistence and relentless nature to your offending.

“It would not be an exaggeration to speculate that while you have been in custody there has probably been a drop in Stockton’s crime statistics.”

Following the hearing, Sergeant Mitch Baldwin, from Stockton’s Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “The court heard of the large number of thefts carried out by Hunter.

“I have no doubt that residents in and around Stockton town centre, where many of the thefts took place, will be relieved he is jailed.

“We work closely with local people and businesses to prevent and investigate thefts and will continue to do so.”