A COMMUNITY warden appointed to spearhead a crackdown on prostitution has resigned - after being caught kerb-crawling.

Ronald Gray, 55, of Walington Court, Billingham, was employed by Stockton council to work with the police to reduce soliciting on the streets.

But yesterday he admitted picking up a prostitute in his car on the Bon Lea Industrial Estate in Thornaby on Sunday.

He was caught after two plain clothes officers spotted a known prostitute getting into Gray's car and followed it along the A66 before stopping him.

Glenda Turnbull, prosecuting, told Teesside magistrates: "He knew she was a prostitute and assumed there would be some sexual contact, but no conversation of that nature took place because he suspected the car following them was the police."

Marie Mallon, defending, told the court that Gray, a single man with no children, was previously of impeccable character.

"This is not the sort of behaviour he would indulge in on a regular basis," she said. "But he thought because of this he should resign from his job and he has done so."

Gray was fined £175 and ordered to pay £40 costs, which he will do at £5 a week as he is now jobless and unable to claim benefits because he resigned. He had been in the £12,000-a-year post since July.

Stockton council's head of community protection, Mike Batty, said: "For him to be arrested and charged with kerb-crawling, even in his off duty hours, was obviously completely against what was expected of him.

"He has lost his job because of this and his reputation is tarnished. This should act as a lesson to anyone else who may think kerb-crawling is an acceptable activity."

Gray was caught as part of Operation Auckland, a crackdown on kerb-crawlers in Thornaby.

Sergeant John Coates said: "The message to these men is do not come to Thornaby. We will arrest you, we will prosecute you and we will name and shame you."