A MAN who has previously been convicted of child cruelty for breaking wind in a boy's face and 'charging around his neighbourhood' in a gorilla mask has been handed a suspended sentence after a court heard he had not paid a penny in fines for years.

Garry McKenzie, 24, of Beaumont Hill, Darlington, appeared before magistrates in Newton Aycliffe yesterday where he admitted smashing the window of a van with a brick and stealing tools from inside.

But when magistrates came to sentence him they realised he already owed more than £1,400 to the court – and had 'not paid a penny' in previous court-enforced fines for at least four years.

They handed him a 45-day suspended prison sentence for non-payment of fines.

McKenzie has previously been convicted of child cruelty for breaking wind in a child's face and sucking his eye.

And last year he appeared in court again for more 'stupid and irrational behaviour' after being accused of running around in a gorilla mask and accusing people he saw of breaking into his home.

He also had convictions for shoplifting and assault the previous year.

Lesley Burgess, prosecuting, said that on this occasion he and a co-accused had stolen from a parked van. She said: "The defendant approached the vehicle, picked a brick up from the floor, threw it through the window of the vehicle and took a bag full of tools from the van.

"The incident was captured on CCTV and the defendant, together with a co-accused, were located very close to where the incident had taken place. The CCTV showed two males, together with a dog, walking away with the bag full of tools."

McKenzie originally pleaded not guilty but later changed his plea to guilty.

Victoria Molloy, mitigating on his behalf, said: "It was an act of stupidity. It was an impulse action in the company of another."

She said he had committed no further offences since the theft, on January 5, and said he was still subject to a Crown Court community order for the previous matters.

"He tells me he is now trying to turn his life around," she said. "He has had enough of his criminal lifestyle and wants to change.

For the theft matter, magistrates imposed a 12-month community order and ordered him to complete 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £100 compensation, £300 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

McKenzie promised a judge last year that he would 'sort himself out' following the gorilla mask incident.