A SERIAL burglar has been warned he faces a substantial prison sentence if he offends again after a judge gave him a final chance.

James Lawrence struck in the early hours of Boxing Day when he entered a home in Stockton to steal the keys to an Audi A3 before crashing as he made his way home.

The victim was left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after the car was written off by insurers and her plans to buy a house were derailed.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Lawrence had a long history of burglary and had served substantial prison terms in the past.

Ellen Wright, prosecuting, said the burglary had left the homeowner upset after Lawrence walked into her home while her young child was in the house.

Miss Wright said the car was found severely damaged at the bottom of Loftus bank and DNA had connected the defendant to the crashed car.

Lawrence, of Queens Road, Loftus, east Cleveland, pleaded guilty to burglary and theft in connection with the incident in the early hours of Boxing Day 2018.

His legal counsel, Nigel Soppitt, told the court how his client was struggling to deal with his son's terminal illness at the time and had turned to drugs.

Mr Soppitt said his son had passed away just months after the burglary.

Judge Paul Watson QC said: “There will be, I’m quite sure, people who simply look at what you did and the sentence I’m about to impose will be wondering how, for a crime like this, you can walk away from this court.

“I can tell you now it’s not without hesitation and that I’m going to take the course that I am.

“You have a bad record and been away for long sentences for targeting and intruding other people’s homes.

“On Christmas Day night you broke into the family home and helped yourself to the car keys and trashed the car before it could be recovered. It left her out of pocket, it had a huge impact on her life. She had to leave her home and couldn’t go through with the house purchase she was on with.”

The judge warned Lawrence that if he offended again he would be brought before him and would face a substantial prison sentence.

He said: “If I’m making a catastrophic error, then I am the one who is going to put it right."

Lawrence was given a two year sentence, suspended for two years.