Sunderland 'career criminal' locked up after breaking into restaurant
A "career burglar" has been put behind bars for two raids at city centre eating places.
Within a space of two hours Ricky Elliott, who has convictions for 27 previous break-ins, had raided a restaurant and a university building's cafe in Sunderland.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 41-year-old had crept into the Spice Empire restaurant and took keys from a coat that he used to steal a car and broke into the university's Priestman building, where he took a safe.
At the time of the break-ins, on September 4, he was on a suspended sentence for previous raids.
The court heard Elliott has a record of breaking into both houses and commercial premises and carried out his first break in more than 20 years ago in 1991.
Elliott, of Raine Grove, Hendon, Sunderland, admitted two charges of burglary and driving the car belonging to the restaurant worker while disqualified.
Judge Robert Adams sentenced him to two years behind bars with a two-year driving ban.
The judge told him: "You have a bad record for burglary.
"Your record demonstrates you are a bit of a career burglar, in fact."
Barry Robson, defending, said Elliott had kept out of trouble for almost a year before the night of the raids, which were carried out as a result of a "moment of madness".
Mr Robson said: "Unfortunately, even though he had been trying to keep away from illicit substances, he had been taking valium.
"He has no real recollection of what went on during that time and puts it down to a moment of madness.
"It was stupidity, over a two hour period."
Mr Robson said Elliott is in danger of becoming "institutionalised" as a result of the amount of time he has served in prison.