A THIEF from Bridgwater has been banned from leaving the town at night after becoming the first criminal in the region to be fitted with a GPS tracker device.

Elliott Gooding was caught either preparing to steal or doing so at industrial estates in Paignton and Bideford in June and July last year.

On each occasion he had driven with friends from Bridgwater in the early hours of the morning to look for potential targets.

He has now been put under a nighttime curfew which is enforced by a GPS satellite tracker device which will alert the monitoring firm EMS if he leaves Bridgwater at night.

They will tell the police and probation service if Gooding breaks the curfew by leaving an area around his home which has been set out on a map.

The tracked curfews were piloted elsewhere but only introduced in the South West on April 1 this year. Gooding's case is thought to be the first in the region.

Bridgwater Mercury:

GPS tracker. PIC: Ministry of Justice

Gooding, aged 21, of Fairfax Road, Bridgwater, admitted going equipped for theft and was jailed for six months, suspended for a year and ordered to do 110 hours unpaid work and 20 days supervision by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.

The judge ordered Gooding remain within Bridgwater on a geographic curfew between 9 pm and 6 am for two months under section 215 (1)b of the Offender Rehabilitation Act.

He told him:"The purpose of the requirement is this. There is a map with an inclusion area which you must not leave. The purpose is to stop you getting up to this sort of offending behaviour during that period of time."

Mr Simon Burns, prosecuting, Gooding drove to the Caddsdown Trading Estate in Bideford in the early hours of July 10 last year with two others, aged 17 and 18. It is 70 miles from his home and the trip takes about 90 minutes.

Police found the other two near the perimeter of a recycling centre, one wearing thick motocross gloves and the other latex gloves. Gooding's Fiesta was found nearby with the engine still warm.

"There were more latex gloves inside along with a screwdriver, snips and a crowbar. Messages on Gooding's phone suggested he was planning to steal car batteries, for which he already had buyers.

Gooding had previously been arrested on June 23 at the Blackthorn industrial estate in Paignton after staff at a skip hire firm caught them red handed stealing diesel and batteries.

Mr Paul Grumbar, defending, said Gooding needed money for cocaine but has since tackled his drug issues. He is a plasterer by trade but had become involved in low level crime and delinquency to pay for drugs.

Justice Secretary David Gauke announced the roll-out of GPS curfews in February after trials in the North West, North East and Midlands.

He said: "GPS tagging will help to better protect victims and give them the reassurance that perpetrators will not be able to breach an exclusion zone without triggering an immediate alert.

"I am confident that this important new technology will become a vital tool to increase public protection and strengthen options for tougher community sentences."

A Home Office spokesman said: "If an offender is found somewhere they should not be, this new capability will issue an automatic alert and their whereabouts will be known. The tags also provide a tougher option for community sentences."

Co-accused Corrie Moore, aged 18, of Deacon Road, Bridgwater, and a 17-year-old boy both admitted going equipped in Bideford. Moore was ordered to do 100 hours unpaid community work and the boy received a referral order from Taunton youth court.

Marcin Malka, aged 30, previously of Hamp Street, Bridgwater, admitted theft and attempted theft in Paignton and was jailed for two months for two months after breaching a community sentence.