A serial commercial burglar failed to take advantage of the chance offered by a judge who imposed a suspended sentence for similar offending a year ago this week.

Just three months after receiving the 16-month suspended sentence order, Ryan David Armstrong was detained outside a Travis Perkins builders merchants' yard near Bishop Auckland, in the early hours of October 1, last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that police were alerted to suspicious activity at the Maude Street premises by a CCTV camera operator.

Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, said the operator reported having seen a male, in dark clothing and wearing a balaclava-type hat, appearing to be filling bags with items, inside the compound.

(Image: Durham Constabulary)

A search of the perimeter by police showed no obvious points of access and the CCTV operator confirmed the figure was no longer inside the compound.

Miss Smithies said in a search of the wider area, Armstrong was located nearby with two large bags filled with plastic and metal pipe fittings plus lengths of timber fencing.

He was searched and was found to be carrying a craft knife, a screwdriver and a torch.

Miss Smithies said although it was still not clear how access was gained, it was noticed a metal fencing strip at the site compound was slightly bent backwards which could have been pushed to one side to enable an intruder to gain entry.

Armstrong was questioned and admitted intending to steal items from the compound to sell to enable him to buy food.

He said it was an opportunistic theft as he had noticed a gap in the fencing.

(Image: Durham Constabulary)

Miss Smithies said he accepted possessing the craft knife but denied having any intention to use it in the commission of crime.

He said the snood-type headwear and gloves he was wearing were just for warmth as he was homeless at the time.

The court was told following his arrest he was recalled to prison the following day to serve the unserved part of a previous sentence.

(Image: The Northern Echo)

Miss Smithies said the suspended sentence was imposed at Newcastle Crown Court on July 7 last year for burglary and theft of motor vehicles.

The 47-year-old defendant, formerly of St Helen Auckland, admitted the latest charges of theft, going equipped for burglary and possessing a bladed article at a magistrates’ court appearance on May 31, after which the case was sent to be sentenced at the crown court.

Elisha Marsay, in mitigation, told Tuesday's (July 9) sentencing hearing that the defendant was only released from prison on June 28, and has been living in temporary accommodation provided by someone who offered him casual employment looking after animals and helping to maintain a farm where he has been staying.

Miss Marsay said at the time of the offences the defendant was homeless and not in receipt of benefits.

“That’s the reason for these offences.

“He saw a hole in the fence and took the opportunity to obtain goods.

“He’s been out of prison now for ten days and he tells me he has got to the age where he doesn’t want to be going back to prison again.

“He said he made a conscious effort following this release.”

Recorder Mark Giuliani told Armstrong: “It’s a great pity you committed further offences having been given a chance by a learned judge at Newcastle, last July.

“You would have been warned of the consequences of re-offending, that the 16 months would be immediately imposed.

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“Notwithstanding that, you succumbed to temptation and went equipped to burgle, and saw an opportunity to steal these items.”

Imposing the full 16 months of the suspended sentence, Recorder Giuliani said he would not add any further penalty in addition.

Recorder Giuliani also ordered forfeiture and deprivation of the seized craft knife and screwdriver.