A SNEAK thief who struck at a college in the five minutes that a secretary was away from her desk has been jailed.
Ronald Henderson, 30, was arrested within hours after stealing the woman’s purse with £30, her driving licence and bank card from her handbag.
He had been caught on CCTV walking around for 15 minutes inside the Hartlepool College of Further Education, in the town’s Stockton Street.
Henderson, who was described by the judge as a persistent burglar, had even targeted the college in a previous theft offence.
He was wearing the same clothes when he was arrested as on the CCTV footage.
Prosecuting, Sue Jacobs said that there was a high degree of culpability because Henderson had targeted the college and his past methods had been to walk around workplaces looking for the opportunity to steal.
She told Teesside Crown Court the secretary was only away from her desk for five minutes on the afternoon of December 3 last year and when she returned to find her handbag had been moved.
Henderson, of The Front, Seaton Carew, pleaded guilty to burglary.
Martin Scarborough, mitigating, told the judge: “It is certainly high culpability, and I can tell your honour that he has actually stolen from there before.”
Following his arrest Henderson was re-called to prison to continue serving a previous sentence from which he had been released early.
He wrote a letter to the judge, who said that he was taking courses in jail which were helping him to tackle the problems behind his crimes.
Judge Howard Crowson told him: “You are one of those persistent burglars, your burglaries are usually if not exclusively of this type.
“You take the opportunity to sneak into a room and take property that has been left there by someone working in the room.”
The judge added: “I have your letter which expresses some strong assurances to rid yourself of something which causes you to steal.
“I hope this motivation persists throughout your sentence and after your release.”
Henderson was jailed for 10 months.