A CAREER criminal who has committed 245 offences over 34 years has been jailed for stealing two charity boxes.

Richard John Billings, 47, formerly of Newmarket Hotel, Bridgwater, caused thousands of pounds worth of damage when he broke into the Aldi supermarket in the town overnight on June 3.

CCTV footage showed him breaking the shutters and damaging the doors to get into the store, where he was seen grabbing a charity box for Teenage Cancer Trust containing an estimated £15 before running out.

He was recognised from the images by police and admitted the offence before becoming distressed when he was told which charity the donations were intended for, Taunton Crown Court heard.

Then on June 18 he stole another charity box from Sainsbury's, in Bridgwater, and was arrested after being recognised by staff.

And he was back in the same shop two days later, when he tried to steal steaks worth £34.40, although he was spotted by a member of staff on their break who apprehended him.

Patrick Mason, defending, said: "Sadly, his record speaks for itself. He has led a life of low level acquisitive crime, largely due to the abuse of alcohol and at various times drugs. He's visited the courts on a very, very regular basis."

But Mr Mason said Billings had remained out of trouble for 30 months while he was living and working at the Newmarket until he was sacked after being falsely accused of stealing.

Judge David Ticehurst told Billings: "Targeting charity boxes is an easy way of obtaining a few pounds for you. You have an appalling record."

Billings was jailed for four months for the Aldi burglary and two months for each of the Sainsbury's thefts. He was also told that eight months of a suspended sentence he was already subject to would be activated.

The sentences are to run consecutively making a total of 16 months. Billings, who pleaded guilty to all the offences, was also ordered to pay a £140 statutory surcharge.