A THIEF who was caught in two of his neighbours’ gardens with the intention of stealing from them has been jailed.

Keith Ballantine was seen in the back gardens of two properties at Seton Court in Tranent and was confronted by the concerned householders.

Ballantine attempted to bluff his way out of trouble by claiming he was scouring the area for discarded cigarette butts.

But the homeowners decided to call in the police to deal with the matter and Ballantine, who was living at a property on Seton Court at the time, was soon arrested and charged.

Former Musselburgh resident Ballantine, who appeared from custody at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday, was caught in the back gardens of the homes near to his own property on three separate occasions last December.

The 42-year-old, who has a string of theft and dishonesty convictions, pleaded guilty to three offences and had not guilty pleas to two further similar allegations accepted by the Crown.

Fiscal depute Mark Keane said Ballantine was first spotted in the garden of a Seton Court home at about 9.30am on December 7 last year.

He was confronted and claimed he was looking for cigarettes ends before adding: “I’m not going to break into your house.”

The second incident took place at about 5pm on December 15 and the third occasion took place the following day at about 3pm.

Solicitor Mary Moultrie, defending, said her client had carried out “pretty foolish matters” and that at the time of the offending he was living with his fiancée at an address on the street.

Ms Moultrie added Ballantine was currently serving a 10-month prison sentence for dishonesty offences and was due for release in March.

The lawyer said the crimes had been foolish as “all the neighbours know him”.

Sheriff Peter McCormack acknowledged Ballantine had spent time on remand in connection with the case and ultimately sentenced him to a 55-day prison sentence. The jail term will run concurrently to his current sentence.