A HUNGRY thief spent two nights behind bars after he stole a piece of Wensleydale cheese worth less than £2, York magistrates heard.

The court heard John Tanner, 51, walked into the Sainsbury’s store in Burton Stone Lane.

He could remember little of what happened next, but witnesses told police he took a £1.89 block of Wensleydale cheese and walked out without paying for it. Staff alerted police, who arrested Tanner as he was starting to eat the cheese. He told them he had gone out intending to buy a bottle of Bailey’s and had £12 in his pocket.

Tanner, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to theft.

He has previous convictions for shoplifting and drink-related offences.

Magistrates fined Tanner £50 and when he said he could not pay, they ordered him to stay in the court cells until the court rose a few hours later.

Because Tanner had spent two nights in custody, he had served the equivalent of a four-day sentence before going to court for a very low-value theft.

Tanner lives on benefits and is currently paying off other court fines imposed for other offences.