It is a good time to be a criminal in nutty Britain, where even if you are responsible for half the crime in a town, you can escape a prison sentence.

A petty thief is responsible for half of all the recorded crimes in his hometown – but was still spared jail following his latest offence.

Thomas Cato, 23, was caught pilfering a meat pie and a pair of rubber gloves – while on a suspended custodial sentence for burglary.

A court heard Cato was responsible for 50 per cent of all recorded crime in his hometown of Dolgellau, North Wales, with a population of 3,000 people.

Cato pleaded guilty to stealing the pie and pair of Marigolds, valued at just £2.29p, from his local Co-Op store.

But his solicitor Nicola Jones told the court yesterday it would be ‘disproportionate’ to receive a jail sentence for shoplifting.

She said Cato had mental health problems which had only recently been diagnosed.

Miss Jones said: ‘It will be to the town’s benefit if my client stops offending.

‘Six months ago I spoke to the police who told me that my client was responsible for half of the recorded crimes in Dolgellau.’

Magistrates gave him 20 hours unpaid work for the breach and 20 hours unpaid work for the shoplifting charge.

No court costs were imposed after it was heard he still owed £3,000 in unpaid fines and compensation dating back to 2009.

Speaking to the Daily Express, Tory MP Philip Davies criticised the court’s decision.

‘These magistrates are fools to themselves and are making a fool of the British justice system.

‘What on earth is the point of giving someone a suspended sentence if it’s not invoked when they go on to commit another crime? It makes a mockery of the system.’

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