A PROLIFIC thief and burglar has pledged to put his “demons” behind him after his release from his latest prison sentence.

Neil McCormack was speaking after receiving a 1,000-day sentence for burglary and five theft counts at Durham Crown Court.

The offences were committed between mid-October and November 30, culminating in the burglary of an occupied home in Bishop Auckland.

Helen Towers, prosecuting, said the householder noticed the back gate to the property, in Greenfields Road, was open.

As he has a dog, he went to investigate, but as he did so he noticed a man rifling through property in his conservatory.

The intruder was asked to leave and he said he had not stolen anything, before fleeing the property.

Miss Towers said the victim noticed a scented candle and three DVDs were missing, however.

The court was told over previous weeks McCormack was identified through cctv and finger prints as being responsible for four shop thefts and for stealing a woman’s purse from the passenger seat of a car.

McCromack tried to get in as the woman returned to her vehicle, parked outside a shop.

The 42-year-old defendant, formerly of Newton Aycliffe, admitted burglary and five thefts.

Miss Towers said his record now features 36 convictions for 82 offences, including five house burglaries between 2001 and 2018.

As a “three-strikes” burglar he served an 876-day sentence for the last of those and was not long released before his latest spate of crime in October and November.

Stephen Hamill, mitigating, told the court upon his release from his last sentence McCormack was homeless and, due to his lack of stability, began committing initially petty crime to steal items to give to the “negative peer groups” who offered him somewhere to stay.

He said his offending “got out of hand” after he missed appointments and he was taken off his methadone script.

Mr Hamill added: “Sometimes ‘remorse’ seems a hollow word, but he has genuine regret for his actions.

“Commenting in his words: ‘No-one should have to find someone in their conservatory’.”

Judge Ray Singh told McCormack: “I’m afraid you are no stranger to these courts as you are a persistent burglar and thief.

“No matter what sentence I pass on you I’m fairly confident we are likely to meet again.

“Every sentence passed on you has simply not worked and I’m confident we are likely to see you again and the sentence may well get longer.”

He imposed consecutive sentences totalling 1,000 days, about two years and nine months.

But McCormack, appearing via video link from Durham Prison, told the judge: “I know my past isn’t good, by any stretch of the imagination, but my plan is to work with my post-prison officer and go into rehabilitation to, hopefully, address those demons I have had for so many years.

“If I do that I don’t think I’ll be before the court again.”

The judge told McCormack: “I’m afraid your past record speaks differently.

“I hope we don’t meet again, but if we do it will be a hefty sentence.”

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