A serial criminal who was caught with three stolen bikes has been spared jail by a judge, despite his “terrible track record”.

At Swindon Crown Court on Friday recorder Ian Lawrie QC, told Sheldon Salmon, 29, of Hawthorn Road, Melksham his offences deserved prison, but challenged him to “prove me wrong”.

Salmon pleaded guilty to three counts of handling stolen goods worth about £5,500 after he was caught with a Kawasaki and a Gas-Gas motorbike, and a specialised Stumpjumper mountain bike in May.

He was caught after one of his victims spotted his bike for sale online on Gumtree, and found the seller had bought it from Salmon.

The court heard he had a lengthy record. At an earlier hearing Judge Tim Mousley QC said: "Some might say that he appears to be a professional handler.”

Chris Smyth, defending, said his client, who has no qualifications and cannot read or write, was put on a suspended sentence in March for dangerous driving.

Passing sentence the judge said: "On any estimation I should be locking you up today, you have got a terrible track record.

"You acquired these bikes a little too close to the burglaries for comfort. I have read the report with interest, it is written with a great deal of care.

"The author of that report thinks you could benefit from offending management and that time can ensure you don't commit offences in the future.

"In view of your past record I am not wholly optimistic that you can achieve it but no-one would be more pleased than me to be proved wrong.

"If it turns out in around 12 months or so you have committed any further offences you are coming back here and I will sentence you and send you to prison."