A burglar, who was confronted in the act of trying to steal tools from the home of a man he knew, committed the crime in desperation to pay for his next drug deal, a court was told.

Brett Northey targeted living premises at a former pizza shop, in Craghead, near Stanley, in the early hours of Saturday, February 3 this year.

Durham Crown Court heard that Northey gained access via the front door of the Front Street premises, which was closed but had been left unlocked.

Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, told the court that the householder, who was at home with his two children, was awoken by noise on the floor below at about 3am.

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He went downstairs, into what used to be the pizza shop, where he confronted Northey, who was standing with several power tools in his hand.

Miss Haugstad said Northey told the resident: “I’ve just come to borrow some tools” and kept repeating that he was sorry and only wanted to, “borrow something”, before leaving.

The victim rang for the police and when officers arrived he was able to tell them he knew Northey, who had previously been into his property, but never unaccompanied.

He directed police to a nearby bungalow where Northey was staying at the time.

Miss Haugstad said the defendant began trying to pull away as he was being handcuffed and then tried to re-enter his property as he was led to a police vehicle.

Other officers had to assist to ensure he was taken from the scene without further incident.

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In an impact statement read to the court, the burglary victim said he was left “shocked and worried” over the incident and had lost sleep as a result.

Northey, 32, who is now of no fixed address, admitted charges of burglary and resisting/obstructing police when he appeared before magistrates two days after the break-in.

The court heard he has 20 convictions for 60 offences on his record, dating back to 2009.

Among those past convictions were offences of non-dwelling burglary, robbery, and several for shoplifting.

He was in breach of an 18-month conditional discharge, imposed in November, for five shop thefts at the time of the burglary.

Lewis Kerr, in mitigation, told the court that his client, who admitted the burglary at the offence at the first opportunity in court, has been working with the Probation Service looking to break his drug habit, which was behind his offending.

“Being back in custody has been a salutary lesson to him and a shock to the system.

“He realises he’s committing offences to obtain money for drugs.

“The person he burgled is seen as a friend and he realises it’s an appalling way to behave.

“He did not use violence against anyone in the property and caused minimal damage, while the items he attempted to take were returned before the offences were even reported.”

Mr Kerr said the defendant would be suitable for a drug recovery programme, but homelessness may be an issue upon his release.

Judge Nathan Adams said he intended to permanently deprive a man he knew of those power tools.

The judge described Northey as, “a prolific shoplifter”, having committed “a constant stream” of offences almost without break in his adult life, leading to longer and longer sentences.

“Almost as soon as you are released from any sentence you go back to shoplifting.

“The magistrates gave you a chance with a conditional discharge, in November,  and only a couple of months or so later you have committed a more serious offence.

“There was also some degree of planning and you knew the individual involved, who was present at the time.”

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Judge Adams said the sentence would have been two-and-a-half years, had Northey been convicted after trial, but allowing him a one-third discount in credit for his prompt plea, he reduced the sentence to one of 20 months’ immediate imprisonment.

The judge added that the defendant could have shown "better engagement" with the Probation Service after his previous offences.

But, he added that he was not prepared to put the public at risk from the defendant by suspending the sentence.