A MAN who stole five wildlife cameras belonging to Chester Zoo was also cultivating cannabis plants at his home address.

Jason Lee Evans, 32, of Bunbury Close, Stoak, pleaded guilty to stealing a total of £1,560 of materials belonging to the zoo, and cultivating six cannabis plants.

At Chester Magistrates Court on Tuesday, November 21, Evans was sentenced to a 12-month community order.

Prosecuting, Lionel Cope said it was on February 20 when a Chester Zoo staff member was alerted to an intruder on woodland near the zoo, where it had set up wildlife cameras. The zoo's security teams were informed.

Some of the cameras, the court heard, were still recording when they were being put into a bag by Evans. All the cameras and their ancillary equipment had been stolen.

Police investigated and on October 1, attended Evans's address, where the defendant was present.

In the search for the cameras - some of which were located at the address - a total of six cannabis plants were found.

Evans remained silent in police interview in connection with the thefts, and said he grew the cannabis plants for personal use, to medicate for his diagnosed anxiety which had restricted him socially.

He said he was a "heavy" user of cannabis, but not addicted.

He had 14 previous convictions, the most recent of which was in 2020.

Defending, Stevie Bate said there had been a "very helpful" pre-sentence report and Evans had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Evans had his own cannabis plants as he did not have the funds to pay for cannabis. He also did not intend to sell the cannabis or target the zoo specifically for the camera thefts.

As part of the 12-month community order, Evans must complete up to 35 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

He was fined £140, plus £120 prosecution costs and a £114 victim surcharge.