AN opportunist burglar with a string of break-ins and prison terms to his name has been jailed for two-and-a-half-years.
Police found Anthony Carroll in the back yard of a house in Grasmere Street, Hartlepool, holding a piece of metal and he confirmed he had been inside the premises.
Officers, who had been called by neighbours who heard noises coming from the property around 2pm, found the house had been stripped of metal.
Although Teesside Crown Court heard there was no forensic evidence linking Carroll to the offence, the 39-year-old, who the court heard has a “substantial” record which carried custodial sentences over the past decade, admitted burglary on March 10.
Carroll, of no fixed abode, was jailed for two-and-a-half-years, minus 75 days on remand, under the three-strike rule.
Prosecuting, Richard Parsell said: “Officers checked the premises and found entrance had been gained to the house.
“A boiler had been dismantled, copper pipes were on the floor, radiators were missing from walls, two screwdrivers were found, upstairs a radiator had been taken off the wall and in the bedroom was an adjustable spanner.”
Mr Parsell said forensic tests showed there was “nothing whatsoever” to link him to the damage inside.
He added: “In his interview, he admitted going into the house and had some story about looking for a friend who he thought might be in the house.
“He said it had been trashed by other persons, it was insecure and he had come across it.”
Mr Parsell said Carroll emphasises he hadn’t stolen anything and said checks with local scrap dealers confirmed he had not weighed in any metal.
The prosecutor said Carroll had a “substantial record” for similar burglaries of unoccupied houses.
These ranged from one in 2002, which carried a 30-day prison sentence, to one in 2004, where he was jailed for 42 months.
In April 2003, he was sentenced to four months for burglary, in August 2007, he was locked up for nine months and for his latest offence last October, he was given eight months in custody.
Stephen Constantine, mitigating, said: “He accepts by having gone in there, if there had been anything worth taking he would have taken it.”
He urged Judge George Moorhouse not to impose the minimum three-year custodial sentence under the three-strike rule, given an “optimistic” pre-sentence report and said he would “seize the opportunity to work with agencies” in the community.
But Judge Moorhouse told Carroll: “You have an appalling record for burglary.”
He said although Carroll’s rate of offending seemed to be slowing down, he had had his chance in the past.