Brothers who ran a “sophisticated operation” stealing bicycles from railway stations across the south east have been jailed.

Thomas and James Jeffries stole bicycles worth thousands of pounds from scores of railway stations including Hove, which they targeted twice, Burgess Hill and Three Bridges.

They drove out of London in Thomas’ red Renault van and used bolt cutters and pliers to steal bikes from the racks.

Describing the crimes as a “pretty sophisticated operation”, recorder Kenneth Hamer said: “This was a well organised, systematic theft of bicycles from racks attached to railway stations, to sell on for profit.

“The timescale and the length of travel indicate a large degree of planning.

“These offences involved not just loss of property, but real inconvenience to the owners.

“Not one word of thought have you given to the owners and your lowand thoroughly dishonest acts have no doubt caused them much aggravation and frustration to the victims on learning that their mode of transport, frequently used by them to get to and from work, has been stolen.”

He read from two victim impact statements, including one man who was left “very angry and anxious” about leaving his bike in public.

The victim continued: “I don’t think people who steal fully accept the amount of stress this type of crime places on victims.”

Another woman’s stolen bike had sentimental value after she cycled it to Paris.

Recorder Hamer added: “You knew exactly what you were doing.”

He jailed Thomas, 25, of Hillrise Road, Romford and James, 23, of Arden Estate, Hackney, each for 30 months.

The brothers admitted stealing 13 bikes from 11 railway stations, but British Transport Police detective inspector Ashley Cooper said it could be the tip of the iceberg.

Officers also recovered 14 bicycles which they could not trace the owners of.

Mr Cooper said: “Bicycle theft is quite a large amount of our reported crime and we want people to know we are taking it seriously.”

Figures obtained by The Argus show that more than 1,500 bicycles were reported stolen in a year in Brighton and Hove.