POLICE spotted a York shoplifter as he cycled away with his haul - but then took two months to arrest him.

A judge has now hit out at North Yorkshire Police for the “unacceptable” delay - and has given thief Jonathan Welsh a softer sentence as a result.

Welsh, 30, of Peter Hill Drive in Clifton, was spotted by an off-duty officer as he cycled away from Homesense with stolen cooking pans, York Magistrates Court heard. Police quickly gathered enough information to convict him, but he was not arrested for two more months.

He has now appeared in court and pleaded guilty to theft committed on March 15 and possession of cannabis, which was found on him when he was interviewed on June 13.

District judge Adrian Lower told him: “I don’t understand why it has taken so long for you to get before the courts. Clearly the investigation was over and done on March 15. It is unacceptable to me why it has taken as long as it has to arrest you and and charge you. It hardly seems to have received the priority one would have thought it should have received.”

He said he was adjusting the sentence to take into account the police delay. He fined Welsh £200 and ordered him to pay £69.99 compensation to the store. The cooking pans were not in his possession when he was arrested.

He must also pay £85 costs.

It is the second time this month that police have been rapped by the same judge over delays. Two weeks ago, The Press reported the cases of burglar Taylor Jonathan Sterling- Sharp and banned driver Sunny Punchi, who were both given absolute discharges due to the length of time police had taken to bring them to court.

In the Welsh case, Sam Law, prosecuting, said the police officers thought it suspicious when they saw Welsh balancing the pans on his knees as he cycled, contacted the Homesense manager and checked its CCTV, which had recorded Welsh entering and leaving with the pans.

Welsh’s solicitor, Kevin Blount, said the CCTV was checked on March 16 and the police officers made their statements on the same day. But it had then taken police two months to arrest him, although he had been living at his parents’ home throughout.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “While there was an initial delay between the incident occurring and the deployment of officers to locate the suspect, which included verifying the CCTV footage and taking witness statements, we can give assurance that every effort was made to arrest and charge the offender.

“We acknowledge the comments made in court, but they should not detract from the successful conviction secured by the officers involved in the investigation.”