A THIEF has been thrown off a community work programme at a church after losing his temper and swearing at the rector.
Scrap metal thief Michael Roberts was angry about being made to travel 18 miles from his home to carry out unpaid work at a church in Barnstaple and became abusive to the priest.
Rector Iain Robertson wrote an e-mail to the probation service complaining about his aggressive behaviour and went on to ban further working parties at the church, Exeter Crown Court heard.
Roberts, 28, also racially abused a Scottish receptionist during a separate row at the probation offices in North Devon after he turned up for work in an untaxed car.
Roberts, from Sandford Way, Dolton, was serving 220 hours' unpaid work for stealing a £3,000 metal girder from a Devon County Council depot at Petrockstowe.
Greg Richardson, for the prosecution, said there had been a series of problems with the unpaid work culminating with the complaint from Mr Robertson, the rector of St Augustine's at Heanton Punchardon.
Mr Richardson said: "His aggressive behaviour has escalated and in particular there was an incident in September when the work party was decorating a church.
"It was recorded that Roberts was rude, threatening and abusive to the rector. The probation service also received an e-mail from the rector withdrawing from the work scheme in which he complained of the incident."
The e-mail said: "One of the lads working at the time was rude and threatening and abusive to me and to my role. I felt it was completely out of order and extremely unwise. The supervisor was powerless to stop him, although he did try."
Mr Richardson said 70 hours of unpaid work still have to be completed but the probation service now considers the order unworkable.
Gareth Evans, for the defence, said Roberts had problems getting to the work because he could not afford to make the trip to Barnstaple and became upset when he made the journey and was only offered a couple of hours.
He said: "He is a frustrated man who had difficulties dealing with awkward situations. While it does not justify being rude or abusive, he wanted to get the work completed."
The case will now go back to the original sentencing judge, Judge Erik Salomonsen.