A less-than-dynamic criminal duo stole a camera from a car, then took pictures of themselves and the tools they used to break in.

Police raided their address, found the camera and developed the prints.

Scenic pictures of the Canadian wilderness, taken by the camera's owners while on holiday, were accompanied by more unusual snaps.

One car breaker was giving a one-finger salute to the camera. A second picture showed him half-naked and pulling a face, boss-eyed.

In a third he was laughing and holding the tools of his trade - a screwdriver in one hand and an adjustable spanner in the other.

A fourth picture proudly displayed two window- breaking tools, car keys, a spanner and substances in plastic kitchen wrap.

Their laughs turned to grimaces, however, when police asked them for an explanation. Both pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the theft of the camera when they appeared at Brighton Magistrates' Court.

Ross Edmonds, 26, of Brunswick Road, Hove, was jailed for 42 days. His 17-year-old accomplice, who cannot be named because of his age, received 40 hours' community punishment.

Police said they were disappointed with the sentences.

Inspector Steve Curry and officers based at Sussex House police station in Hollingbury, Brighton, had been working for more than a month to halt a mini-crime wave.

In a two-week period 40 vehicles were broken into in the Preston Park area of Brighton and Mr Curry was hoping stiff sentences might send a message to those responsible.

Special patrols were set up and officers scored an immediate success with the arrest of one prolific car breaker. Magistrates fined him £60.

On May 6 Edmonds and his accomplice were stopped by police in Port Hall Road, not far from Preston Park. Nothing was found on them and they were freed but police decided to pay the pair more attention.

On May 12 at 6.40pm a member of the public called police saying a car had been broken into in Preston Park Avenue. A camera inside had been stolen.

Two minutes later an off-duty officer, unaware of the camera theft, reported seeing Edmonds and his accomplice in Preston Drove, round the corner from the crime scene.

Two days later at 3am officers in a patrol car spotted the pair in their headlights, running from them in Beaconsfield Road.

The two were stopped but again there was nothing on them and they were released.

By now police were even more suspicious and Mr Curry obtained a search warrant to look for stolen goods.

Car-breaking tools were later found in nearby Beaconsfield Villas, close to where the two had been stopped. At an address near Preston Park where the suspects were staying, officers found the camera in a kitchen drawer.

Edmonds and the teenager were arrested and magistrates later allowed police to detain the two further.

Mr Curry told them police wanted to question the pair in relation to other car break-ins in the Preston Park area.

Meanwhile, the camera owner, from Haywards Heath, was shown the camera and he confirmed it was his.

The police investigation was part of Operation Shaft, a crackdown on car crime in the city.

Police are convinced of a direct link between car crime and drugs. They recently closed a drugs den in the Preston Park area where half a kilo of herbal cannabis was seized.

Mr Curry said detecting car criminals was difficult unless villains were caught in the act or there was forensic or DNA evidence.

But, he said, police were prepared to dedicate hours of patrols, investigations and intelligence-gathering to nab the culprits.

He said: "This case shows the lengths we will go."

Only 7.4 per cent of 21,000 car thefts and break-ins in Sussex were solved last year but police suspect a small number of villains are responsible for the majority of crimes.