Cops used a sniffer dog to catch a notorious thief red-handed as he was breaking into motors.

William Vance, 43, had prised the badge from a car parked outside an owner’s home when the householder contacted police.

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Paisley Sheriff Court heard crook Vance was trying to force his way into a nearby garage using a screwdriver when he was tracked down by a dog handler.

Procuator Fiscal depute Frank Clarke said: “Householders had occasion to search outside their home after recovering a Mercedes badge which had come from a car.

“Police were informed and officers made inquiries with householders.

“Officers making inquiries asked for a dog handler with dog to assist. The dog handler soon picked up the scent and followed it to the locus where the officer observed the accused attempting to open a secured garage.

“He was in possession of a red and black handled screwdriver.”

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The court heard the dog handler told Vance to remain in place when she caught him on the evening of September 11, last year, at Carlibar Road in Barrhead.

Additional officers were radioed to attend and he was arrested at the scene.

He appeared from custody yesterday where he pleaded guilty to charges of wilfully destroying property and removing a Mercedes badge from a vehicle, being found in the curtilage of a property where he intended to commit theft, and to possession of an offensive weapon, namely a screwdriver, in a public place on September 11.

Vance of Divernia Way, Barrhead, also admitted shoplifting charges on September 13, also last year, and possession of a lockback knife in the car park at Barrhead Shopping Centre.

Defence agent Amy Spencer said her client “steals to fund his drug habit” and was not involved in violence when he was arrested.

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She urged the court to hand him a community-based disposal so he could get help in tackling his addiction.

She said: “He has been serving a life sentence by instalments of between ten and 12 months.

“He steals to fund his drug habit.

“The implement was a screwdriver in relation for jemmy-ing open cars. The knife in his possession was due to the drugs he was taking.

“He has been in Low Moss prison since September. He has served the equivalent of a nine-month sentence already.”

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Sheriff David Pender agreed with Ms Spencer and freed Vance from jail but handed him a Community Payback Order lasting 18 months, and ordered he perform 200 hours of unpaid work in nine months.

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He was also placed on a tag for three months and warned he will be go to jail if he breaks the terms of the order.