A THIEF, who stole metal pipes from a disused building in South Tyneside, has narrowly avoided jail.
Scott Pearce had pleaded guilty to burglary after telling police he had broken into Kensington Court in Hebburn.
Officers investigating a break-in at the council-owned block of flats found a stash of copper hidden in a coal-bunker near the building, alongside a bike that one recognised as belonging to Pearce.
When they turned up at the 20-year-old’s home in The Willows, Jarrow, he struggled with the cops before being arrested.
During his police interview, he said he, and two friends, had broken into the building, but he wouldn’t say who his accomplices were. South Tyneside magistrates asked for the case to be adjourned so the probation service could write a report about Pearce, before passing a suspended sentence.
Chairman of the bench, Geoff Usher, said: “You have previous convictions that are relevant, and a history of failing to comply with orders. And in this instance, you were part of a gang, so we’ve decided that this has passed the custody threshold.
“We will sentence you to 18 weeks in custody, but will suspend it for 12 months with supervision from the probation service.
“If you commit another offence or fail to work with probation, you will be brought back to court and will be jailed.”
Stan Sudworth, prosecuting, said when police went to question Pearce about the burglary, he was wielding a two-and-a-half-feet-long black object they feared was a machete. The item – which turned out to be a pool-cue holder – was taken from him.
He added: “Copper piping had been cut and removed from some of the flats, and a crowbar and torch were found inside.”
David Forrester, defending, saidPearce needed to “grow up” and get some structure to his life.
He said: “He’s a young man who rather needs to grow up. He has lived on his own for the last four or five months and like many others his age receives about £80 every two weeks and doesn’t have any budgeting or many educational skills.
“He was hoping to make a few quid on the copper but that’s the easy way out – the hard way is to graft, learn a trade and get a job.
“You could give him unpaid work which would give him some structure in his life, which he badly needs.”