A MAN who stole valuable jackets from two Cumbrian outdoor shops could have done so because his behaviour was changed by a brain injury he suffered when he was attacked three years ago, a court has heard.

Joseph Atha, 29, took the clothes – together worth nearly £1,000 – from shops in Ambleside and Kirkby Lonsdale. But, Carlisle Crown Court heard, he might not have done it if he was not still recovering from the head injury he had received.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson told the court that Atha first struck at the Climbers shop in Compston Road, Ambleside.

The manager Brian Ward chased him as he left the shop with two expensive jackets hidden in a laptop bag he had on his shoulder, but he could not stop him before he drove away in a blue Jaguar.

Soon afterwards, Mr Rogerson said, Atha stole another jacket from the Edge of the World shop in Kirkby Lonsdale, and again managed to get away before he could be stopped.

But he was arrested at a filling station on the A591 after police recognised his car from the description given by Mr Ward.

Atha, of Barley Street, Keighley, pleaded guilty to two charges of theft.

Defence barrister Rod Halligan said Atha had “a good reputation and a good career as a joiner” but his behaviour had been affected by the brain injury.

“He is very alarmed to find himself convicted of an offence of dishonesty, because he does not consider himself to be a thief,” he said.

Mr Halligan said Atha had been warned it might take seven years for his brain to get back to normal.

Judge Barbara Forrester said that in the circumstances it would not be “appropriate” to send Atha to prison, even though by stealing the jackets he broke the terms of a suspended sentence he had been given for drugs offences.

Instead she put him under the supervision of probation officers for 12 months. “It is important that your recovery is allowed to continue,” she told him.