Jail for one-legged cancer victim behind £100,000 car crime spree

A disabled cancer victim has been jailed for more than four years after he carried out a £100,000 crime spree across the north of England and the Midlands.

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Shipley man Stephen Britton, who wears a false leg as a result of road accident, targeted high-value tools and fishing equipment in a spate of offending against vehicles in places as far afield as the Lake District and Staffordshire.

The 43-year-old, of Greenfield Avenue, also carried out dozens of attacks on vehicles across West and North Yorkshire, including the Calder Valley, Skipton and Huddersfield, before his campaign ended with his arrest in Bradford.

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Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday that father-of-one Britton was a heavy drinker and also felt he had nothing left to lose after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.

Britton was jailed for a total of four years and six months after prosecutor Soheil Khan outlined details of his extensive offending which covered a period from 2011 until July this year.

The court heard that Britton had been committed for sentence by magistrates in Skipton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, North Cumbria and Bradford for offences in their areas and he also asked for a total of 164 other thefts or attempted thefts from vehicles to be taken into consideration.

Britton had admitted all the offences at previous hearings and Mr Khan said the case involved analytical work relating to the defendant’s mobile phone and automatic number plate recognition systems which showed him travelling around the country.

The offences committed to the crown court by the magistrates totalled around £50,000 in terms of stolen property and damage, but Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC estimated that the total loss caused by Britton’s activities was in excess of £100,000.

The court heard that in February Britton was given a 19-week prison sentence by magistrates in Kendal, again for thefts from vehicles, but in July he was caught by police in Bradford after taking property from a van in Halifax Road.

Mr Khan said Britton drove off at speed in a Vauxhall Astra when police officers approached his car and he ignored red traffic lights during a pursuit through the streets.

When he was finally stopped Britton told officers: “That’s me going back to prison then.”

In addition to the dozens of theft and attempted theft charges, Britton also admitted an offence of dangerous driving in relation to the incident in Bradford.

Lawyer Ashok Khullar, for Britton, said he was before the crown court for sentence because of the sheer volume of offences and it was unusual for someone to become a prolific offender in their 40s.

“Part of the reason for what’s arisen is heavy drinking which has spiralled out of control, but a significant factor does seem to have been his diagnosis of cancer,” said Mr Khullar.

Mr Khullar said Britton wanted to change his ways and his admissions indicated his genuine desire to clean the slate.

Judge Durham Hall said Britton was before the court for “a quite staggering number” of offences.

“It was a long and protracted campaign whereby you targeted, often overnight, vans and the like stealing therefrom a vast array of very precious hand tools, power tools and working tools from a number of individuals and companies,” said the judge.

The judge said one could only imagine the extreme inconvenience and outrage the hard-working victims would have felt when they found out that their property had been stolen.

As the judge handed down the sentence Britton shook his head, but the judge told him he should think about the victims in the case.

He also banned Britton from driving for three years.