A JUDGE has commended a detective and his colleagues for their "brilliant" police work after he jailed a professional criminal for more than five years.

Darren Rayner, 41, carried out a series of targeted attacks on tradesmen's vans across Yorkshire in order to steal vans or the valuable tools inside.

Rayner, of Acaster Drive, Low Moor, Bradford, even enrolled on a locksmith course in 2013 and used the skills he acquired to open up vehicles without leaving any signs of damage or setting off alarms.

In June last year Rayner was given a three-year prison sentence for similar offending, but today he was brought back to Bradford Crown Court from prison and sentenced to 70 months in jail for an offence of conspiracy to steal.

Between July 2013 and December 2014 Rayner, and an accomplice who has not been traced, carried out attacks on vehicles over a wide geographical area including Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds and even as far away as Bridlington.

Prosecutor Nicoleta Alistari said Rayner had accepted involvement in 21 separate thefts, including the theft of two vans, and the total loss was estimated to be about £56,500.

She said the thieves mainly operated at night and the vans would be opened "in an expert way" without setting off alarms or leaving traces of any physical damage.

Miss Alistari said Rayner used a hire car during some of his offending, but he did not know that the vehicle was fitted with a GPS tracking device.

It is understood that as part of the complex police inquiry officers were able to track the car's movements and link Rayner to the crimes.

Rayner, who had 26 convictions for 88 offences on his record, had been due to stand trial on the conspiracy charge, but finally pleaded guilty today when he appeared before Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC.

The judge said the thefts had been targeted and involved the stealing of very precious tools belonging to tradesmen.

"You had taken a locksmith's course so that the expert opening of these vehicles was professionally done leaving little or nothing for the investigators," said the judge.

"It was only brilliant police work, using a tracker on a hire car, that led to your detection and brought this very professional offence to an end."

After jailing the father-of-one Judge Durham Hall praised Detective Constable Anil Seepujak and his colleagues for their work on the case.

After the case Detective Inspector Gary Stephenson, of Calderdale District CID, said: "Rayner clearly caused a lot of disruption to tradesmen across the Yorkshire area with his involvement in these thefts of vans and tools.

"We are glad that he is now behind bars and that the excellent work of Det Con Seepujak, Detective Sergeant Ross Wadsworth and Lynda Kemp has been recognised by the judge."