A FORMER thief returned to his old ways targeting unattended lawn mowers in a garden and a farm building, a court heard.

Anthony Price, 47, appeared before Durham Crown Court for sentence after admitting theft and a non-dwelling burglary at separate hearings before magistrates in County Durham and Carlisle in recent weeks.

The court was told the theft related to a sit-on lawn mower taken from a garden in Ushaw Moor, near Durham, on November 12.

Jennifer Coldham, prosecuting, said the owner discovered it had been stolen at 3.30pm, and, on checking cctv, a man identified as Price, assisted by an accomplice, were seen taking it and placing it into a red Transit-type van.

Inquiries led officers to Price’s home address where the red van, containing the stolen lawn mower, was parked outside.

Price initially claimed he bought it from scrap men in a pick-up van he flagged down in Woodhouses, near Bishop Auckland, but in a subsequent police interview gave mostly “no comment” replies.

He later admitted taking it with his accomplice, claiming the owner previously told him and the other man they could have the mower free for scrap.

Miss Coldham said the mower was returned to the owner, but at a cost of £150.

While inquiries were made over that theft, a pressure washer, worth £500, and a lawn mower, valued at £250, were taken from an outbuilding at a farm in the Alston area of Cumbria, on December 7.

Police checked a red van, driven by a woman, with two male passengers, in Front Street, Alston, and saw the stolen items, but officers were told they had been bought for scrap.

Following reports of the theft, the van, by now without the stolen items, was stopped and all three occupants were arrested, later that day.

The stolen property was recovered the following day having been found behind a field wall, near Alston.

Price, again, gave no comment to police questions.

Following his recent admissions, the sentencing hearing was told the 47-year-old defendant, a roofer, of Fountain Square, St Helen Auckland, has 21 convictions for 40 offences.

But offences of dishonesty petered out after 2005, until March last year when he was convicted with two co-accused of the theft of a large animal feeder, in Cockfield, County Durham.

His latest offences, however, put Price in breach of a suspended sentence imposed for an unrelated assault matter, in June 2020.

Rebecca Brown, for Price, said the offences were dissimilar, and following the latest thefts, the stolen items have been recovered undamaged.

She said Price's compliance with the community element of his suspended sentence from 2020 has been good and he has a good working relationship with his probation offender manager.

Miss Brown added that drink played a part in the assault offence, since when Price has remained teetotal.

Read more: Three burglars jailed for County Durham farm theft

Recorder Jamie Hill said he was just persuaded not to activate the suspended sentence as they were for totally different offences, but he ordered Price to take part in 40 probation rehabilitation activity days, perform 100-hours’ unpaid work and pay the Ushaw Moor lawn mower owner £150 compensation to meet the recovery cost.

Price was also ordered to pay £425 prosecution costs for bringing the case, at the rate of £40 per month.

The court heard the two accomplices from the matter in Cumbria have been dealt with at magistrates’ court level, with the female recently receiving a fine.

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