A THIEF has been banned from every place of worship in York for the next 12 months.

Paul James Harrison was initially barred from all churches and other religious places as a bail condition last month after he was caught trying to steal from a collection box set into the wall of St Wilfrid’s RC Church on Duncombe Place near York Minster.

When he returned to court for sentencing, York magistrates issued a 12-month ban on entering all places of religious worship in York as part of his punishment. He must also observe a 12-hour nightly curfew for the next six weeks.

Harrison, 36, of Arran Place, off Malton Road in York, pleaded guilty to attempted theft and going equipped for theft. He has previous convictions for dishonesty.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Jane Chadwick told the court a police community support officer followed Harrison when he went into St Wilfrid’s Church at 9.45am on Friday, January 24.

The officer caught Harrison red-handed trying to fish coins out of the box with the help of a torch. He had two straws and a stick with gum on him.

Harrison told police he had just gone into the church to find somewhere quiet to read a book.

His solicitor Richard Minion said he did use the church regularly as a place to read.

He had needed coins for his electricity meter because he was more than £170 in arrears and had had no heating.