A CAREER criminal who broke into a number of transit vans after honing his skills on a vehicle locksmith course has been jailed for three years.

Darren Rayner already had a string of vehicle theft charges to his name when he took part in the self-funded course, which a judge said amounted to getting a "doctorate in car theft."

Rayner, of Acaster Drive in Low Moor, appeared at Bradford Crown Court on yesterday after admitting attempted theft from a motor vehicle, theft from a motor vehicle and handling of stolen goods, at an earlier hearing.

The court was told that Rayner, who has 25 previous convictions, had enrolled on a locksmith course in 2013, where he picked up the skills needed to open the doors of transit vans without damaging them.

The 40-year-old had claimed the course was to set up his own business.

Rayner's property was searched in September 2013 when tools, including high end saws, were recovered by police.

The previous night, a transit van in Silsden had been broken into with no damage to the lock. Items taken from the van were found in Rayner's house, along with an expensive cleaning machine taken from another van parked in Silsden around the same time.

The court was told that the theft from a motor vehicle took place in Barnsley in October 2014.

The attempted theft of a motor vehicle took place in Hipperholme in December, when Rayner and another man were disturbed as they were trying to start a van parked outside a property on Wakefield Road before fleeing the scene.

Rayner was arrested on suspicion of those two crimes on December 21.

Rayner's record of stealing from vehicles dated back to 1993, the court was told.

Amerie Hudson, defending, said his client's record was "unhelpful" but that he had taken the course to put his offending behind him, and paid a substantial amount of money to enrol and buy the tools.

She said after police seized Rayner's locksmith tools in September 2013, he was unable to carry on with his business plan which led to the further offending.

Ms Hudson added: "Any legitimate business prospects he had disappeared."

Judge Durham Hall QC said: "You cannot blame the police for seizing a professional criminal's tools.

"He is a professional criminal who has taken the skills he learned on this course and used them to get into the vans of hard working people.

"The public will be outraged that a professional career criminal could enrol in a course that is basically getting a doctorate in car theft."

He sentenced Simpson, who has been in custody since December, to 12 months for each offence, to run consecutively.