A PROLIFIC thief who stole to fund a drug habit has been jailed after being told to "take ownership" of his issues.

Gavin Newton appeared at Teesside Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to two shop thefts in Durham last month.

The court heard that the 40-year-old had turned to drugs after his father disappeared in June 2014. Police presume he has been murdered.

Anthony Pettengell, prosecuting, said: "The defendant was caught on CCTV on February 24, first at TK Maxx [at Dragonville Retail Park in Durham] where he is seen leaving the store with a large basket of clothing valued at £579.92.

"Shortly after he went to Laura Ashley [at Mercia Retail Park, on the Arnison Centre] and staff were notified at 4.45pm by a customer who had seen a male leave the store with a box under his arm and something inside his jacket.

"This was later identified to be two lighting products with a value of £320.

"Shortly after these offences police stopped a red Citroen on Finchale Road, where the defendant was the passenger.

"There was a large wheeled shopping basket in the back of the car with TK Maxx written on it, a Laura Ashley light in the boot and a further item in between the defendant’s legs. He also had a small magnet in his pocket and price tickets."

Newton, of Darcy Street, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to two charges of theft. He has 92 previous convictions for 205 offences, 110 of which are theft related.

Judge Johnathan Carroll said: “He is a habitual shop thief and I’m sure it’s to fund a drug debt and other lifestyle choices. He has 205 previous offences, he’s done it while he was on licence, he isn’t going to stop. All I can do is give him a longer sentence.”

Newton’s solicitor said he did steal to fund an ongoing habit using illicit substances.

He added: “There is a professional diagnosis of PTSD arising out of a serious road traffic collision when he was a much younger man in which a close friend died. He is also struggling to come to terms with the loss of his father in June 2014. It’s a missing person case and he’s presumed by Northumbria Police to have been murdered. He deals with that by using illicit substances.”

Judge Carroll added: “He is 40-years-old, of course I am sympathetic but there comes a point when you have to take ownership of the issues. Immersing yourself in drugs and getting by by thieving other people's property is not the answer.

"You have significant and indeed terrible previous convictions. On February 24 this year you went out on a shop lifting mission. You went equipped with a magnet, that is a device well known for removing security tags.

"You were released on licence and immediately went back to the same activity. This is a lifestyle choice for you."

Newton was jailed for eight months and is banned from entering the TK Maxx and Laura Ashley stores in Durham.