A THIEF beat security devices to sneak into a field and take a £2,000 horse box trailer - only to be caught in a police ambush, a court heard.
As jobless Christopher Spence prepared to drive off in his Range Rover, officers stepped out of hiding places and he immediately admitted: "You caught me red-handed."
The incident took place in a field at Snelston on June 12. Police received a tip-off that the crime was about to take place, said Melanie Smith, prosecuting.
The court heard the trailer was owned by a woman who keeps horses in the field and who had an electric fence powered by a solar panel. This was turned off, before an oxy-acetylene burner was used to open a metal gate.
Mrs Smith said that, at 3.45pm, police "received intelligence" that somebody planned to steal the trailer from the field.
She said one officer hid in stables, another waited near the gate and a third was in a field. The raid took place at 5pm and Spence was detained.
A 16-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, was imposed on Spence, 28, of Sturston Road, Ashbourne.
He must do 150 hours' unpaid work and pay the victim's £100 insurance excess, as well as £165 costs.
Under new legislation, his Range Rover was confiscated and will be sold by police because it had been used in crime. He was banned from driving for a year when he appeared at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court.
Spence admitted theft, damage to a wheel clamp and using a vehicle with insufficient tread on two tyres.
District Judge Morris Cooper said it was clearly a planned offence and was serious enough for a prison sentence.
But he told Spence: "You had the good sense to admit what you had done straightaway to the police. You were caught red-handed because the police were on the lookout."
Andrew Cash, mitigating, told the judge: "He realises that his liberty is very much at risk."
Spence had been given a suspended sentence for an earlier offence and had been ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work. This had been done.
Mr Cash said Spence had been offered the chance of working with his parents, who run a racehorse business. Currently he was left with "£80 in his pocket at the end of each week."