A PROLIFIC thief who was spared jail for a string of thefts less than a week ago has appeared back at court for a further four charges of dishonesty.

Andrew George Tarren, 40, appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court yesterday where he pleaded guilty to four counts of theft from a shop between October 24 and October 26.

Among the items taken were nine bags of coal from Aldi, soft drinks from Iceland, potted plants from Asda and large plant pots also from Asda.

Ansab Shan, prosecuting, said Tarren has 104 previous offences on his record, the majority of which are like offences.

He said: "The defendant is also subject to a suspended prison sentence which was imposed by this court last week for other offences of theft."

David Dedman, mitigating, said his client suffers with mental health issues and stole "because he was skint."

He added: "The pattern of offending seems to be going to the front of the store and taking whatever is there.

"It is almost opportunistic and very unsophisticated. It is difficult to conceal items like plants and large plant pots.

"He tells me he is stealing effectively because he is skint. He gets his benefit and after he has bought his food he says he has nothing.

"I have pushed him further on this and it appears that he also owes money out.

"He does not want to go to prison - he does not like prison. He has managed to secure premises for the first time in a long time and obviously if we was sent immediately to custody he would lose that.

"He is working very well with probation."

District Judge Tim Capstick said: "I assume you don't want to spend your birthday in prison. You have got to stop going out and shoplifting, this is your last chance."

Tarren, of Warren Street, Horden, Peterlee, was given a six-month community order and a curfew for six weeks.

He must also pay compensation of £35 to Aldi.