A THIEF drove off in a car after taking its keys when he broke into another vehicle parked nearby.

Ryan Bell did not get far, however, as he was recognised at the wheel of the Kia Picanto as he drove the hatchback through Durham, drawing attention to himself due to the speeds reached.

Durham Crown Court heard that a police officer on patrol knew Bell, due to recent brushes with the law.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said: “The officer saw the car being driven at speed, so he stopped it and noticed Bell smelled of drink.

“Inquiries found that the car had only recently been stolen from outside its owner’s house in the Gilesgate area.

“The lady owner had left the keys in her partner’s car, which had been left insecure.

“Bell got into the partner’s car, from which he stole a satellite navigation system, sun glasses, a pair of walking boots, and the keys to the Kia.

“When he was interviewed, he claimed he bought the Kia for £2,500 from a garage in Spennymoor.”

Mr Dryden said the ten-month-old car was actually valued at about £8,000.

Twenty-one-year-old Bell, of Bradford Crescent, Gilesgate, admitted two charges of theft, driving with excess alcohol, driving with no insurance and driving other than in accordance with his licence.

The court heard that all the offences took place on Tuesday July 22.

Tony Davis, for Bell, said in mitigation that the defendant underwent, “a troubled upbringing”, but his criminal behaviour only developed in his late teens.

“The offending started in 2012, when he moved to Gilesgate, and met people of a criminal nature, who he allowed to influence him.

“However, unlike many defendants who come to these courts, he does have good qualifications from school, which mean his aim of getting his life back on track by going to university is realistic.

“Being on remand in the weeks since the offence has been his first taste of custody.

“It has not been something he has enjoyed.”

Judge Christopher Prince told Bell the background reports he had read, prepared by the Probation Service, reflected that he has, “the capability to impress.”

But he told Bell that he was prepared to give him a chance to see if he can fulfil his pledge to go straight, by leaving the sentence hanging over him for six month.

“So, not only must you stay out of trouble, but I want to see a stunningly good report about you in six months.

“If that happens, I will not send you to prison.

“You say you don’t like prison, well, it’s entirely up to whether you go back there or not.”

Bell was given an interim driving ban, the length of which will be determined when he returns to court for the deferred sentence, on March 13.