TWO teenagers were 'caught on camera' when they joined a gang of metal thieves trying to steal thousands of pounds' worth of manhole covers from a Gainsborough depot, a court heard.
And they were told by a judge that anyone caught stealing metal for its scrap value would face a custodial sentence – if they appear before his court.
Jerry Smith and a 17-year-old youth – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – were captured on camera during the abortive raid.
It happened at the Severn Trent Water Authority depot on Lea Road – and led to six-month detention sentences for both 18-year-old Smith and the boy from North Nottinghamshire.
Stuart Lody, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that the gang used bolt croppers to remove a padlock and then loaded 31 manhole covers into a 4X4 vehicle.
But they were interrupted when a Severn Trent lorry driver unexpectedly returned to the depot.
The group abandoned the loaded vehicle and fled.
Smith, who lived nearby, and the other teenager were arrested later – after being identified from CCTV security footage which protected the site.
Lea Road resident Smith was given six months at a young offenders' institution after admitting the theft of the manhole covers – worth £9,300 – on September 27.
The 17-year-old admitted the same charge and was given a six-month detention and training order.
Judge Michael Heath told them: "Metal theft of this sort is a problem up and down the country and in particular in this county of Lincolnshire.
"As far as this court is concerned, anyone who lends himself to such an enterprise involving the theft of metal will lose his liberty."
Stephen Grattage, defending, said Smith earned a living from horse trading and was from a family well regarded within the travelling community.
He said the 17-year-old had come under "the wrong influences."
Mr Grattage said: "They said they would help when they were asked for their assistance.
"They do not habitually involve themselves in offences of this type."