A MAN who stole almost £3,500 worth of items from two garden centres has been spared jail after a judge said he desperately needed help.

Glyn Coaten concealed a number of items, including expensive water pumps, hats, garden tools and a black bin within a water butt he was seen carrying towards a vehicle at the Arcadia garden centre in Stokesley Road, Middlesbrough.

Teesside Crown Court heard the 49-year-old was challenged by the manager, who had been watching him while he took his lunchbreak and noticed that the water butt seemed particularly heavy.

Coaten, who has 83 previous convictions for theft and similar offences, then made off, but was later arrested by police and his fingerprints were found on the stolen items.

While police were investigating the Middlesbrough thefts, they discovered he had been responsible for another series of thefts from the Ferndale garden centre, in Dronfield, Derbyshire.

The defendant was seen on CCTV acting suspiciously and emptying the contents of a bag into a vehicle parked on a petrol station forecourt opposite the centre. It was found to contain a number of Yankee candles and women's handbags.

Coaten, of Sprotbrough Road, Doncaster, admitted two counts of theft, in July and August last year and asked for two more offences of theft to be taken into account.

Judge George Moorhouse said the defendant had an appalling criminal record and a problem with alcohol.

He was currently attending sessions aimed at curing his alcohol addiction.

The judge said Coaten would serve a year long community order with an alcohol treatment requirement.

He will also be subject to a three month long curfew between 8pm and 8am.