A judge has banned a man in Oxfordshire from entering any church in England, unless he has written permission, after he systematically targeted places of worship in three counties.
Christopher Coulthard, who was also jailed, was arrested last month after a member of the public recognised him as the man caught on CCTV stealing from the village church’s collection box in June. He had also targeted a Catholic school and had stolen a purse during the Covid lockdown.
Judge Ian Pringle, presiding over the case at Oxford Crown Court, sentenced the 61-year-old offender to a term of three years and four months in prison. In his ruling Judge Pringle said: “It’s a repeat of offending which you know you’ve done in the past and you know what the outcome is going to be.
“I can’t really be tied by the guideline, such is the proliferation of offending you repeatedly commit.”
He also imposed a criminal behaviour order that prohibits Coulthard from entering any religious establishment, except with written permission from an authorised figure, such as a minister or churchwarden.
During his appearance before the crown court last Friday, Coulthard admitted guilt in relation to one church burglary and possession of stolen cash, both of which he had already acknowledged. But he contested a charge of carrying tools designed to commit burglary in Radley in August, and pleaded not guilty to the possession of the class C drug Tramadol, which is an opioid drug used for pain relief.
Gareth James, the defendant's counsel, emphasised that Coulthard had grappled with a Tramadol addiction spanning several years and requested he be considered for a drug rehabilitation programme. James told the court that his thefts were driven by the need to finance his drug habit.
However, the judge rejected the request, saying: “Such is the nature of the offending that he’s pleaded guilty to – and his record – that there is only one possible solution in this case and that is immediate custody.”