A THIEF who stole several plants whilst armed with a knife has been jailed.

Simon Ward was spotted making off with £21 worth of plants by an off duty police officer in the car park of Home Bargains in Stockton.

Teesside Crown Court heard a small makeshift knife was found in Ward’s pocket when he was arrested and searched this July.

Ward, who 89 previous convictions for 179 offences, including six bladed article charges, claimed he never intended to “brandish” the knife – but Judge Deborah Sherwin refused to accept his story and handed him six months in prison.

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said: “He went into Home Bargains and picked up £21 worth of plants and left without paying. In the car park was an off duty police officer who is familiar with the defendant.

“He was arrested and during a search a small knife was found inside a needle pouch in his pocket.

“He has 89 previous convictions for 179 offences. This is the seventh bladed article offence and he has one offensive weapon offence.”

But Michele Turner, defending, said: “This is a low level crime. He was never going to brandish it and it was safely kept in the pouch away from himself and other people.

“He does have an extensive record but as a child he was in care for many years. When he was released the system wasn’t as user friendly as it is now. This is a life he no longer wants to pursue.”

Ward, of Hartington Road, Stockton, pleaded guilty to one count of theft and possession of a bladed article. He was handed six months in prison.