A PROLIFIC young criminal is starting his longest sentence behind bars, with a warning that stiffer stretches will follow unless he mends his ways.

Tommy Laws, who earned fame as the teenage criminal "Spiderboy", was sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders' institution for escaping from the dock of a magistrates' court.

Passing sentence on Laws, at Newcastle Crown Court, Judge Denis Orde told him he would one day be jailed "for a very long time", if he continues to commit offences.

Laws, whose 17-year-old girlfriend is expecting their child early in the new year, admitted escaping from lawful custody and affray.

Facing a robbery charge, he scrambled to freedom after clambering up a secure dock and squeezing through a six inch gap before fleeing North Shields Magistrates Court.

Laws was at large for three months, but was eventually arrested at a hideaway just days after taunting police in a mocking phone call to a local newspaper.

The crown court was told that 20-year-old Laws, of Banbury Way, Meadow Well, North Shields, first came to police attention aged 11 in 1991 when he earned a theft conviction.

His continuing offending in subsequent years, and his propensity to escape, often by climbing over buildings, earned him the tag Spiderboy.

His barrister, Anne Richardson, said he had resolved to put his offending behind him and, on his release, aims to settle with his girlfriend, to help to raise their child