A MAN branded a “professional thief” by a sheriff has been jailed for plundering tools worth thousands of pounds from vehicles in Old Kilpatrick.

Malcolm Hutcheon pleaded guilty at Dumbarton Sheriff Court last month to a string of break-ins and breaching a driving ban.

Hutcheon, 47, committed the first break-in on October 21, 2016.

The court heard how he forced open a car parked and secured in Admiralty Gardens, stealing a quantity of tools worth hundreds of pounds – none of which were recovered.

He then struck again on the same street on February 10, this time stealing tools from a different car. He was spotted on CCTV looking into the car with a torch before forcing the back door open with a screwdriver.

The loot this time was worth more than £3,000, with only a strimmer valued at £500 recovered.

A third theft happened on April 8, this year, at Neilston Avenue, Glasgow, when he forced open a car and again stole tools.

Depute Fiscal David McDonald told the court during last month’s hearing: “Later that day Hutcheon was stopped by police on an unrelated matter and the stolen items from the third car were found in his possession. They were valued at £650.”

Hutcheon also admitted driving while disqualified and without insurance on Admiralty Gardens on October 21, 2016.

During a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, August 30, Hutcheon’s defence agent John McShane told the court his client had been struggling with drug addiction.

He said: “He managed to successfully stop in 2014 and was clean for a period of two years but relapsed in October last year.

“He would benefit from a drug treatment and testing order.”

He added: “The report indicates he does have previous violent convictions although the latest violent conviction was 1989.

“There’s no reason he poses a risk to others. There’s no personal injury.”

However, Sheriff William Gallacher disputed Mr McShane’s submission, arguing the theft would have resulted in harm to the victims.

He told Hutcheon: “You are a persistent thief, you’ve been a persistent thief for many years. You had the opportunity to do other things and you have not. The incidents here were planned. That’s what you thought you were entitled to do.

“In my view, the nature, the persistence and wilful planning of them – there’s no option but a custodial sentence.”

Hutcheon was sentenced to nine months in prison for all three theft charges and a further six months for the driving charges, all to be served concurrently.

He was also disqualified from driving for five years.