A VANDAL has admitted smashing up a string of shops during a drunken rampage.

Unemployed Ben Emerson, 21, targeted seven businesses in Rochford town centre and caused £1,230 damage in the early hours of October 8 last year.

He then tried to outrun police, but was grabbed by officers.

Yesterday, at Southend Magistrates’ Court, Emerson of Steeple Close, Rochford, pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal damage and to obstructing a police officer.

Deputy district judge Robert Booker said Emerson’s wrecking spree had caused “a great deal of expense”.

He gave Emerson a year-long community order, told him to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work, and ordered him to pay £50 compensation to each business – the total of £350 will be deducted from his benefits.

Deputy district judge Booker told Emerson: “The incident is a very sad one, because you’ve had a good character up to this present time.

“You’re a young man, and now you’ve blemished your record.

“That is in itself your punishment.”

Emerson broke the windows of the Royal Tandoori restaurant, the Beehive Tearooms, picture framing company Frame It, insurance brokers Genesis Risk Solutions, Aztec event organisers, Haynes Florists and the Marlborough Head pub.

He was prosecuted after forensic examinations were carried out on his clothes, which matched shards of glass to each of the businesses.

Geraldine Gull, who owns the Beehive Tearooms, had been out celebrating her anniversary when she came home to find the damage.

She had to pay a £250 excess to cover the damage because her building is Grade II listed and has unique windows.

She said: “I had to shut off part of the tearoooms for a couple of days and repaint all the window frames as well, so it was a lot of inconvenience.”

Bill Haynes, who owns Haynes florists, added: “It’s a way of life around here with broken windows. It’s the second or third time we’ve had it done, so you get used to it.

“Although he’s got to pay £50 compensation, it has cost us a lot more to get things repaired.”

Insp Andy Clarkson, of Rochford police, said: “It was members of the public calling that alerted us to this incident. They also put themselves forward as witnesses.

“It was a combination of that and the police officers catching him on the night, plus the forensic work, which really forced him into a corner and made him plead guilty.”