A PROLIFIC thief who stole 34 bikes worth a total of more than £21,000 has been jailed.

Homeless John Smith targeted bicycle racks at railway stations and colleges in a year-long crime spree around Brighton.

Smith, 31, had been given a criminal behaviour order in March in an attempt to curb his repeat offending.

But the drug addict was caught red-handed just three days later.

He admitted the thefts, plus possessing cannabis and breaching a suspended sentence – also for theft of a bicycle.

Jailing him for a total of 30 months at Lewes Crown Court today, Judge Christine Laing QC said it was a "deliberate, flagrant and repeated" series of offending.

And she said the total value of stolen goods was "very substantial".

She said: "I'm dealing with over 40 offences. You stole bikes that were very important to the people who owned them, either to get them to work or to college ... causing everyone involved stress as well as financial loss."

Judge Laing said Smith had a "very long and unfortunate record" with 34 convictions for 56 offences, and only a "substantial custodial sentence" would protect the public.

Smith, who appeared by video link from Lewes prison, used bolt cutters to steal bikes from Bhasvic, as well as Brighton, Preston Park and Eastbourne railway stations between June 2017 to and July this year.

Crown prosecutor Helen Easterbrook said the regularity of the thefts and the speed with which he was getting rid of the bikes suggested they were being stolen to order, although there was no evidence to prove that they were.

Defending Smith, Stuart Dingle said: "We are not talking about precious family heirlooms or sentimental family photographs or anything of that nature."

Mr Dingle said Smith was addicted to drugs and had been homeless at the time he committed the offences.

He also had a number of mental health problems including autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety and "at least one personality disorder," Mr Dingle said.

He added that Smith had not fully understood the impact his offending had been having on his victims, and had believed he was simply taking bikes from a rack.

But was now fully aware and remorseful for his crimes, he said.

"He was trying to improve his life, although he was acting as a professional criminal.

"He does regret his actions, he is sorry and he wishes to apologise to the court and to his victims."