A SCRAP dealer who raided an industrial unit and stole £1,500 of metal has been told he could have gone to jail.
Colin Ayre was seen by an off-duty police officer removing the metal sheeting from the Mayflower Glass studio in Moor Lane, East Boldon, and loading it into a van.
The officer called his colleagues as he thought there was something suspicious about the 33-year-old.
When police turned up Ayre told them he had permission to remove the metal, but after checking with the owner they found he was lying.
Ayre, of Kirklea Road, Houghton, pleaded not guilty to burglary, which happened on September 30 last year, at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court and was due to stand trial earlier this month.
On November 11 last year, he was caught stealing four bags of copper piping worth £300 from outside a home in Penshaw, and charged with theft.
Ayre changed his plea to guilty for the burglary and admitted the second offence before magistrates.
Prosecutor John McGlone said: “The off-duty officer saw a door open and a van parked outside the unit.
“He heard voices and the sound of metal being moved around coming from inside and called police.
“He said he had permission but the owner was contacted and denied this.”
Regarding the theft in Penshaw, Mr McGlone told the court that neighbours had seen Ayre pick up the bags of copper from outside a home and questioned him about it.
He added: “Again, he said he had permission, but he did not.”
The court was given a report about Ayre from the probation service, which recommended he do unpaid work as a punishment.
Paul McAlindon, defending, said: “He decided to become a scrap dealer to get him into work.
“However, it hasn’t really worked out for him and I’m sure he would agree it has been more trouble than it was worth.
“He went to the unit in Boldon and knew it was abandoned.
“What he should have done was find out who was the owner and ask their permission to take the metal from it.
“In the other incident, he saw bags of metal outside a house and decided to take them – again he should have considered who they belonged to.”
Magistrates gave Ayre a 12-month community order with 200 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay £100 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
Chairman of the bench Stephen Bradley told him: “This could have carried 18 months in custody so be aware of that.
“But we went with the recommendation of the probation service.”