Christmas tree garden centre thief gets 18 months

A Christmas tree thief who targeted Notcutts Garden Centre has been sent to prison for 18 months.

Maidstone Crown Court was told officers received a call from a security firm monitoring CCTV at Notcutts Garden Centre in Pembury, Kent on November 19 2011.

It said three men had been seen climbing over a fence and were carrying Christmas trees.

The offenders had smashed two CCTV cameras at the site, but were unaware of covert cameras still monitoring them.

Police caught the thieves and then followed a trail of pine needles to the thieves’ van, where there was 138 Christmas trees and 48 boxes of Christmas lights worth £7,000.

Ashley Austin, 21, of Maidstone and 35-year-old Lee Danny Hodgson of Maidstone appeared at Sevenoaks Magistrates Court and after pleading guilty to burglary and shoplifting were given a 12 month community order with an unpaid work commitment.

Brother of Lee Hodgson, 31-year-old Grant Hodgson of Rochester was handed an 18-month jail term for burglary, shoplifting and commission of a further offence whilst serving a suspended sentence.

Inspector Justin Watts of Kent Police said:

"Christmas tree theft is an all too common occurrence, which is why we work with garden centres and private sellers alike to offer crime prevention advice and ensure they have sufficient security to tackle this issue.

"This is a prime example of where these security measures have worked to helped prevent anything being stolen and the offenders being caught in the act. These scrooges have shown a complete lack of Christmas spirit, which is why it’s only right that they will spend some time thinking about the consequences of their actions."

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