A PROLIFIC burglar has been jailed after he targeted a mediaeval church in the centre of York and caused thousands of pounds of damage.

Paul Kevin Atchinson, 38, did not take anything in his nighttime raid on the Grade I-listed Holy Trinity Church off Goodramgate in early March, York Crown Court heard.

But he caused £4,000 damage to a window by his attempts to force it and caused more damage inside as he ransacked the building, parts of which date back to the 12th century and which contains rare 17th century high box pews.

It was the third time in seven weeks the church had been burgled, said Nicholas Rooke, prosecuting.

York Crown Court heard Atchinson used a ladder propped against a curved gravestone during his burglary.

The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, said: “It is a very unusual church which is cherished by the city and when people attack properties like this, it is in my judgement, a kind of attack on the community.

“When vandalism is caused by forcing entry and searching for valuable items, it eats into the funds of those bodies responsible for the preservation of ancient buildings.

“It must be extremely demoralising for the volunteers who maintain this building, not just for the citizens of York, but also for the many visitors.”

Atchinson, of Beverley Court, Windsor Garth, Acomb, admitted burglary and was jailed for 18 months.

The court heard he had more than 140 previous convictions, 25 of which were for burglary.

The judge told him: “Nothing seems to deter you from committing burglaries.”

Mr Rooke said Atchinson smashed three panes of glass in one of its window, and left some of his blood on the window frame.

At one point he used a ladder to try and get in.

For him, Kevin Blount said he had been in and out of prison for years and lacked stable accommodation, which he wanted.

Holy Trinity Church is run by the Churches Conservation Trust, and is open to the public for limited hours.