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  1. ITV Report

Sussex thief's latest sentence

A man from East Sussex, thought to be one of Britain's most prolific burglars has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for his latest series of break-ins.

Simon Berkowitz was famously implicated in stealing information detailing former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown's affair with a secretary 20 years ago. A jury found him not guilty in 1992 of burgling the City of London offices of solicitors Bates, Wells and Braithwaite in January that year, when notes detailing Mr Ashdown's affair with his former secretary Patricia Howard was stolen from a safe.

On 6th June, pensioner Berkowitz, 65, stood in the dock yet again and admitted five burglaries, one count of going equipped to burgle and two counts of fraud in the New Forest area of Hampshire that netted more than £30,000.

He is now thought to be one of Britain's most prolific thieves with more than 250 convictions for burglary and theft spanning more than half a century.

Police describe his convictions as only "the tip of the iceberg" and it is believed he has committed thousands of burglaries over the years.

He also has scores of other convictions for handling stolen goods, going equipped to burgle and fraud since he first appeared at Worthing Juvenile Court aged 14 in 1961 on the charge of larceny. He was then given a two-year probation order and ordered to pay 38p in costs.

His criminal record is now 10 pages long and has included sentences totalling more than 40 years from Scotland to the Channel Islands and including Nottingham, Somerset, Wiltshire, Oxford, Devon and London. He committed many of his offences when he was released early on licence from previous jail terms.

At the time of the Paddy Ashdown case, Berkowitz was a Conservative Party member. He tried to sell the document to the News Of The World for £30,000. During his trial he said a Labour Party supporter gave it to him. He was convicted of handling stolen goods and sentenced to 30 months. The jury was told afterwards he then had 230 convictions for burglary.

Berkowitz, an unemployed painter and decorator born in Enfield, north London, and formerly from Fourth Avenue, Hove, East Sussex, showed no emotion at Winchester Crown Court this week as the judge described him as a career burglar with no remorse for his victims, many who on this occasion were elderly.

He was also given a two-year concurrent sentence for going equipped and a further one year each, again concurrently, for the two fraud offences.