TWO thieves have been jailed for stealing a quad bike and tools and equipment worth thousands of pounds from the Salvation Army.

Ricky Port, 27, and Matthew Bristow, 29, took the £6,000 quad bike and £2,000 of tools from the charity’s Hadleigh Farm in Castle Lane, Hadleigh, on October 5 last year.

The pair were caught when their getaway van triggered a police automatic number place recognition camera.

When police pulled them over, Port and Bristow claimed they were moving the property for a friend.

However, among the items police found in the back of the van was a Salavation Army sign.

Officers called Hadleigh Farm, which immediately confirmed there had been a breakin.

The thieves denied burglary, but were found guilty by a jury after a three-day trial at Basildon Crown Court.

Port, of Glebe Field, Basildon, was jailed for 30 months, while Bristow, of St James Road, Vange, was given 24 months.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Owen Davies, said: “You knew you were burgling premises belonging to the Salvation Army and you were taking items used to work on the land.

“This was a mean offence.

The Salvation Army was deprived of the tools it needed to maintain the farm.”

The court heard Porter had 24 previous convictions for similar offences. As the judge passed sentence, there was a fracas in the court, with members of Bristow’s and Port’s families weeping, while others shouted abuse at the judge.

They were ordered out of the public gallery by court staff.

During the trial, the court had heard police forensic teams linked a crowbar, found in Bristow and Port’s van, with a gouge mark left at the scene of the break-in.