A MAN who stole a poppy appeal box days before Remembrance Sunday has been sent to jail.

Neil Brake, of Dinham Road, in New Milton, was convicted of a spate of thefts against shops across Southampton city centre.

Initially Brake, a part time window fitter, was given a suspended sentence order when he was brought to the court by officers.

But within days of the sentence on November 6 he was back stealing again.

He was caught putting products from Mothercare in his rucksack two days later, before two off duty police officers heard the security alarms go off in Boots, on Harbour Parade.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard that as the former Lakeside School pupil tried to flee, the officers grabbed him and found him with £340 worth of electrical goods.

Brake’s suspended sentence was activated from the previous hearing, in which he pleaded guilty to stealing £150 cash from Mettricks, in Southampton, as well as scratch cards and the charity box from Co-op in Terminus Terrace.

A probation report compiled on Brake said the 20-year-old struggled with alcohol abuse following the passing of his stepfather.

The report said: “After he was released from custody he did not make the first appointment that was offered to him before he began offending again.

“His actions are often reckless and impulsive and there is always a risk element to them.”

It added: “Alcohol appears to be his coping mechanism.”

The court heard that despite his young age, Brake has 29 previous convictions for 49 offences - 16 of which are related to theft.

He was sentenced to 10-and-a-half months' imprisonment.

He was ordered to pay £85 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

A spokesperson for Royal British Legion, which organises the annual Poppy Appeal fundraising campaign, condemned Brake's actions.

He said: “We were greatly disturbed to hear of the theft of the poppy collecting tin in Southampton city centre. This theft deprives those in the Service and ex-Service community and their families of much-needed assistance and support from the Legion.”