A SERIAL offender with more than 40 convictions has dodged a prison sentence after being caught attempting to burgle a property in Colchester.

Matthew Herridge, of Mersea Road, Colchester, was discovered by a homeowner when he was attempting to break into their garden shed in Sargeant Close.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard the 50-year-old’s criminal act has left the victim’s eight-year-old daughter “terrified” someone is going to come and steal her toys.

Herridge admitted charges of attempting burglary and going equipped for theft and was handed 27 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, yesterday.

Herridge, whose 49 theft offences date back to 1987, was already under a suspended sentence when he attempted the burglary shortly after midnight on May 12, 2019.

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Herridge climbed the garden wall at the victim’s property before they looked out the window and saw him trying the lock of the garden shed.

When challenged by the victim, Herridge told him “Don’t worry mate, I’m leaving” before trying the lock once more and fleeing on a bicycle.

However, police officers later located Herridge and, when searched, found bolt croppers and a torch in his possession.

A victim impact statement from the homeowner explained how he now feels “on edge” whenever he hears a noise outside.

Robert Levack, mitigating, explained substance misuse is “still a factor” in Herridge’s life but he said he has been “doing well” with his latest suspended sentence.

He added the defendant suffers from anxiety and depression and there is a “realistic” chance of rehabilitation as he “continues to work towards a lifestyle free from offending”.

Recorder Edward Renvoize said Herridge has an “absolutely dreadful” record for dishonesty offences.

He added: “Going in someone’s garden is a real intrusion and has caused the householder real anxiety.

“You have caused an eight-year-old girl to be terrified someone is going to steal her toys. It is disgusting.”

Herridge was sentenced to 27 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, and fined £219.

He will also be subject to an electronically monitored curfew between 7pm and 6am for three months, and must complete up to 30 days of rehabilitation activity.