TWO men who broke into Hermitage Academy amid a crime spree stretching across two towns caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.

James Arthurs, 23, and Andrew Pyke, 22, broke into the Helensburgh school early in the morning of Saturday, May 27 and stole cash from a safe before trashing the kitchen area.

An alarm company which monitored the school registered more than 40 separate intruder incidents.

The crooks then boarded a train to Dumbarton where they broke into Dumbarton Academy – ransacking filing cabinets and a safe.

The cost of the damage was estimated at £3,000.

However, police later spotted the duo and matched them to the descriptions of the two thieves spotted on CCTV at both schools, as well as at Dumbarton East railway station.

At Dumbarton Sheriff Court last week, fiscal depute David McDonald said both ran from officers but were later caught and taken to Dumbarton police station – where they were interviewed but gave no comment.

The court heard Pyke is currently serving a sentence of 27 weeks imposed at Glasgow Sheriff Court on June 23.

The pair, both prisoners of Low Moss, pleaded guilty to two offences on Tuesday, August 14, but were back in the dock on Wednesday, August 30 for sentencing.

Pyke defence solicitor told the court: “His record is less extensive but his position is no less precarious...all I can ask you to do is to limit the sentence as far as you can.”

Sheriff William Gallacher previously branded the acts as “pretty disgraceful crimes” and “of wilful callousness”.

He added: “I have a duty to protect the community and give schools the support they deserve.

“The message must be sent out loud and clear and lengthy custodial sentences must be imposed to mark these offences.”

In sentencing, the sheriff said: “It doesn’t resonate that the serious harm to the public has been so great. [You] came in to this area and allowed yourself to invade not one but two secondary schools with the impact that would have had on everybody.

“You caused significant harm.”

Pyke was sentenced to a total of 18 months behind bars to run consecutively with his current 27-week sentence.

Arthurs, who was sentenced the following day due to pending clarification of a query by the Crown to the Scottish Prison Service, was jailed for 44 months.

Although police could not initially attend due to a separate incident, officers eventually turned up.

A search of the Cardross Road building with a member of staff revealed the extent of Arthurs and Pyke’s criminal rampage.

The duo rooted through a school safe, stealing £30 and also 30 Australian dollars.

Mr McDonald, prosecuting, told the court at an earlier hearing: “Hermitage Academy was locked and secured on Friday, May 26.

"At 6.25am on May 27, the alarm went off, which is monitored by a company in London.

“The key holder was contacted and attended. Police were not able to attend immediately because of an ongoing incident elsewhere.

“They key holder found 43 intruder faults registered and checked the area.

“Various office doors had been opened, including a safe. There was also damage done to the kitchen area and fire extinguishers had been moved.

“The premises was covered by CCTV. It was found that £30 was missing as well as $30 Australian dollars.”

The court then heard how an alarm went off at Dumbarton Academy at 7.45pm the same day.

Again, it was an English firm which monitored the school and alerted the keyholder who stayed nearby.

Mr McDonald went on: “He was joined by police and the school was checked. Drawers and filing cabinets had been ransacked and items scattered over the floor.

“A safe was also found on the floor. The point of entry had been a fire door. The damage was estimated at £3,000.”