A man was linked to the handling of a stolen high value vehicle due to the presence of finger prints found on false registration plates fitted to the car.

The Land Rover Discovery was reported missing from outside the owner’s property in the Brancepeth area of County Durham on the morning of June 8, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that the vehicle was said to have been parked outside the owner’s home intact at 8pm the previous evening.

Jonathan Gittins, prosecuting, said it was recovered in the Crook area on June 10, by which time it was not bearing its original registration plate.

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Forensic examination of the plates it was carrying revealed fingerprints and a palm print belonging to defendant Jason Lee Cheesey.

When arrested he provided a prepared statement for police denying involvement in the theft of the Land Rover.

Mr Gittins said the owner of the Discovery was left £674 out of pocket as a result of the crime, as he had to buy new plates for the vehicle, and that did not include the value of items, mainly tools, missing from the boot.

The court was told the defendant has, “extensive history” of particularly motoring matters, and he was given a community order only in March this year, for driving while disqualified, without a licence and failing to stop for police, all committed on January 10.

Cheesey’s offer of a guilty plea to a handling charge relating to the false plates was made in late June and was subsequently accepted by the prosecution.

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Judge Jo Kidd said given the timing of the plea offer, she would allow the now 27-year-old defendant, of West End Villas, Crook, a 20-per cent discount on sentence.

Penny Hall, in mitigation, said his role in the crime was being asked to get some plates from a garage, knowing they were likely to be used on a stolen vehicle, but that he did not know which vehicle and from where it came.

Miss Hall said as a result of the crime he was recalled to prison for a mandatory two weeks but has now been on remand in custody for 11 weeks, since June 5.

She added that he has made, “significant progress” in that time and has enhanced prisoner status, working in a trusted position in the kitchen at HMP Durham.

Judge Kidd said he played an integral part in the provision of number plates subsequently attached, to a motor vehicle of, “considerable value”, in the region of £26,000.

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She imposed a 20-week prison sentence, but due to the time served by the defendant in custody, she suspended it for 12 months.

But, in that time, he must undergo 240-hours’ unpaid work, and observe a four-month electronically-monitored curfew, from 7pm to 7am.

Judge Kidd warned Cheesey that if he breaches the sentence in any way, or commits a further crime he could, “bank on” coming back to court and receiving at least the 20-week sentence immediately.