AFTER pounding tens of thousands of miles on the beat, one of east Durham's best known bobbies is stepping into a new role.

PC Mick Hayton is moving to a post in the newly-established anti-social behaviour unit following more than 16 years looking after the Oakerside district of Peterlee.

The longest-serving beat constable in the Easington police division, PC Hayton will be missed by the hundreds of residents who relied on his ever- watchful presence.

Twice commended by the Chief Constable for his outstanding beat work, he also played an active role in the community he served.

Not only did PC Hayton keep law and order in his district, he was also a member of countless committees, a tireless youth worker and a governor of Shotton Hall Junior School.

A mark of the esteem in which he is held in the town came during the golden jubilee celebrations of the founding of Peterlee, when he was one of 50 dignitaries invited to plant a commemorative tree to mark the occasion.

A married man with five children, he received a long service and good conduct medal in May to add to his other awards.

PC Hayton said: "It was a very hard decision to leave my beat work, which I have enjoyed immensely."

But the 41 year-old is also looking forward to the challenging role in the anti-social behaviour unit, which will see him working at the sharp end of the service.

The new post will mean PC Hayton giving up almost all of his committee roles, but there is one responsibility he is retaining.

"I am staying on as a wildlife liaison officer for the force," said PC Hayton, who hit the headlines when he became the unofficial guardian of wayward protected newts which found their way into a Peterlee police office drain.