A WEST Cumbrian man seen "tampering" with the gate of a commercial compound late at night said he had a screwdriver with him because he had fixed his cousin's washing machine.

Carl Wilkinson, 41, from Great Clifton, pleaded guilty to an offence of “going equipped” for burglary.

Prosecutor George Shelley told Carlisle's Rickergate court that a plain clothes police officer spotted the defendant and another man in South Watt Street, Workington, at 1am on June 22.

The two men were loitering next to a compound.

The area - used by a carpet showroom on the opposite side of the street - contained several vehicles.

Mr Shelley said that the fenced compound, if entered, would give access to the building inside. As he watched the defendant, the police officer saw the defendant leaning forward towards the compound's gate and there was a metallic clanking.

“He seemed to be tapering with the gate of the compound,” said Mr Shelley, though he could no say for certain whether he was using a tool of any sort, given the angle the officer was observing from.

The second male who was with the defendant, said Mr Shelley, appeared to be acting as a lookout. “The officer heard one of the males say: ‘Don’t bother; there are too many cameras.’”

The men then crossed the road towards houses and Wilkinson was seen walking down the side of one of them.

After a minute or so, the defendant reappeared and walked away along Fisher Street. Wilkinson was stopped by a uniformed police officer who arrived on the scene after the plain clothes officer called for backup.

When searched Wilkinson was found to be carrying a screwdriver. The court heard that his criminal record consisted of 71 previous offences and of these 37 were crimes involving theft or dishonesty. 

John Smith, defending, said Wilkinson was carrying the screwdriver because he had visited his cousin’s home the previous evening in order to fix a faulty washing machine.

The police officer could not say for certain that Wilkinson had tampered with the padlock; but nor could the defendant say he had not done this given that he did not recall what he did that night.

Thus the lawyer had advised the defendant to plead guilty.

Mr Smith added: “He hasn’t armed himself with a screwdriver and then gone out. He’d been to his cousin’s and happened to have the screwdriver with him.”

Since his release from custody a year ago, said Mr Smith, the defendant genuinely felt that this life was back on track. Magistrates adjourned the sentencing, saying that background reports wre needed.

They sent the case to Workington for a hearing on July 17. In the meantime, Wilkinson must comply with a doorstep curfew which will apply each day from 7pm to 7am.