A METAL thief caused almost £12,000 of damage to a railway line after stealing cable just hours after he walked out of court for a similar crime.
Mark Stanley Harrison, 35, had been slapped with a community order and probation by Hartlepool magistrates after he admitted stealing cable to cash in for scrap.
He appeared in court at 10am and by 2.30pm he was stealing 60ft of signalling cable from the railway line at Seaton Carew.
He caused services to grind to a halt for more than two hours.
Harrison, who has a long record for theft offences, was jailed for 16 months at Teesside Crown Court as a judge blasted him for the “enormous damage” he caused.
He was arrested after a resident saw Harrison acting suspiciously by the line behind Harvester Close on October 20 last year.
Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said: “He kept looking around and was keeping low as if to avoid being seen.
“She described watching a sawing-like motion before she saw him pick up the wire, push it over his shoulder and throw it over a fence.”
The resident called police and Harrison was caught near the Tees Bay retail park.
The theft led to a signal failure on the line, delaying trains for two hours and 20 minutes.
More than 2,000ft of cable had to be replaced by a team of nine technicians working for 10 hours.
In all, the total cost came to £11,846.
Harrison, of Baden Street, Hartlepool, later admitted theft before he was about to stand trial at the crown court.
Martin Scarborough, mitigating, accepted Harrison had a long record for offending.
He said: “It’s crime for a mixture of drugs and also when he has had difficulties with his benefits and feeding himself.
“He has had a number of difficulties from a young age.”
Mr Scarborough added he was complying with the community orders made by the courts, and asked for any prison sentence to be suspended.
But Judge Howard Crowson said his case was made worse because of his record and that he committed theft within hours of the last community order imposed for also stealing cable.
Judge Crowson said: ”You have been a persistent thief. The theft of relatively small quantities of cable causes immense loss to the rail network and its passengers.
“It delayed trains for more than two hours and required nine technicians to work 10 hours to put it all back.”