Serial burglar is spared jail sentence

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One of Scarborough’s most prolific thieves has been spared prison despite racking up her fifth burglary conviction.

Donna Mitchell, 39, swooped on a couple’s property in Livingstone Road after the husband forgot to lock the front door before taking his dog for a walk.

Mitchell was inside the house in a flash, looting items including a leopard-print coat, a bottle of perfume and pair of slippers.

An eagle-eyed neighbour, who happened to be an off-duty police officer, arrested Mitchell after spotting her acting suspiciously just before the 4pm raid. Mitchell - a chronic alcoholic and drug abuser with almost 100 previous convictions to her name - made a customary appearance at York Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to burglary at a previous hearing.

Prosecuting barrister Chris Smith said Mitchell, of Hoxton Road, already had four burglaries on her record dating back 15 years.

However, the clang of the prison gates failed to curb her thieving instincts as she duly went on shoplifting sprees and also notched up a few thefts from the person, with a “significant” number of drunk-and-disorderly offences thrown in.

The courts tried to rein her in by slapping an ASBO on her. The order banned Mitchell from entering Scarborough town centre, drinking in the street and harassing members of the public, but she breached it “time and time again”.

Defence barrister Andrea Parnham said Mitchell was homeless and intoxicated at the time of the burglary on August 20, which happened not long after magistrates gave her a community order for breaching her ASBO.

Having surpassed the “three-strikes” rule for serial burglars, Mitchell was staring full-on at a prison sentence, but judge Stephen Ashurst said he was “extremely encouraged” by signs that she was finally heeding the advice of various support groups in Scarborough which had been trying to help her break the cycle of offending.

Mitchell was given an 18-month jail sentence, suspended for two years. Mr Ashurst also ordered her to pay £900 court costs and take part in a rehabilitation programme.