A man with a string of previous convictions stole copper piping, electric cable and tools from a housing construction site in Rugby town centre.
Damian Hyett was charged with burglary at the Partner Construction site in the Gas Street/Church Street area of town.
And his offer at Warwick Crown Court to plead guilty to an alternative offence of theft was rejected by the prosecution – despite another man’s plea to theft being accepted when his case was dealt with by magistrates.
His barrister Robert Hodgkinson explained that Hyett admitted stealing the materials and tools, but denied having entered any of the almost-completed properties.
And at a further hearing prosecutor Paul Dhami asked to add a charge of theft, to which Hyett, 35, of Parkfield Road, Rugby, then pleaded guilty and was jailed for 22 weeks.
Mr Dhami said that at about 11.30pm on January 14 a Rugby town centre CCTV operator noticed two men acting suspiciously loading items from the site into the boot of a Ford Mondeo.
When the police turned up the two men fled from the scene, but were detained.
In the boot of the Mondeo and in the car itself the police found copper piping, electrical cable, plumbing equipment and tools which the site manager confirmed the following day had been stolen from the site.
When he was questioned Hyett, who had 45 previous convictions for 184 offences of dishonesty, said he had gone there planning to take items from a skip on the site to sell them on.
Mr Dhami pointed out that the other man, whose record involved 34 convictions for 76 offences, pleaded guilty to theft in the magistrates court three days after they had been arrested.
He was jailed for 18 weeks, consecutive to seven weeks of a suspended sentence which he was also ordered to serve.
Arguing that Hyett, who had already been in custody for seven weeks on remand, should get the same 18-week sentence, Mr Hodgkinson submitted: “There is absolutely nothing to choose between the two defendants.”
But Judge Richard Griffith-Jones responded: “The difficulty with different courts dealing with it, is why should I be stuck with someone else’s assessment of sentence rather than my own?
“Because of his record I would have considered a starting point of 12 months - but there has to be some parity here.”
Jailing Hyett, the judge told him: “Your offending is well beyond just being a nuisance. This sort of theft is damaging to business.
“There are quick profits to be made from such offences. People who commit them and who have a bad record for dishonesty have to understand that a custodial sentence will follow.
“But this case exemplifies the difficulties which can arise when two people are not sentenced at the same time by the same court.
“The reason for that in this case is because the prosecution, for some reason I’m not able to understand, wanted a long time to decide whether you should be sentenced for burglary rather than theft which the other man was charged with.”
He added that, giving him credit for his plea, he would have jailed Hyett for 32 weeks, but would reduce it to 22 weeks in view of the sentence passed by the magistrates on the other man.