A man who stole an orange from a tree on private property "because he was hungry" has been jailed due to his past convictions and a rock found in his pocket.

Michael James Brooks, 24, of Tauranga was jailed for 10 months after earlier pleading guilty to one charge each of burglary, unlawfully being in an enclosed yard, and possession of an offensive weapon, namely the large rock.

Brooks told police he walked down a 6th Ave driveway in the early hours of June 15 and stole an orange from a tree because he was hungry.

But the female occupant of the house also saw him peering into her windows and rifling through the content of her mailbox after ringing the doorbell.

Brooks ran off, hiding some of his clothing behind a bush on Cameron Rd. Police later found him with a large rock, which he claimed was for protection, in his hoodie pocket.

Brooks told police he ran and hid because he knew the person who saw him would call police.

Brooks, who already had at least 16 convictions for burglary, was sentenced in Tauranga District Court yesterday.

As well as the prison sentence, he is subject to six months release conditions, requiring him to undertake counselling once he is freed from jail.

His lawyer David Bates argued before Judge Louis Bidois that this would be "one of the most unusual burglary circumstances" he had come across, but accepted it fit the legal definition of burglary.

But he said it could be viewed at the bottom end of the scale of burglary offending, and urged the judge to keep the sentence as short as possible, despite Brooks' bad history.

Judge Bidois told Brooks he was "fooling himself" if he expected his explanations for this offending to be believed, given his criminal history.

The judge said Brooks would have faced at least three years in jail if he had gone inside the house, but fixed a starting point of 15 months, before allowing him a five month discount for his guilty pleas and mitigating factors.

"Let me also tell you this Mr Brooks, you are at real risk of becoming institutionalised," the judge said.

"You need to stop breaking into other people's properties and stealing their property, because if you don't, future sentences will be in years rather than months."

- Bay of Plenty Times