A con-artist who preyed on the vulnerability of elderly people was jailed today.

Judge Michael Crosbie, in Christchurch District Court, described Tipene Christine Bain's offending as callous and reprehensible when he jailed her for two years and three months on three charges of theft, one of burglary, one assault, and breach of prison release conditions.

Judge Crosbie said 28-year-old Bain told elderly women different stories to get into their homes before plundering goods and cash.

Bain revisited one of the women and left with her purse with $180 in it. The woman's victim impact statement said she felt intimidated and fearful. She said she did not trust people any longer and felt like a prisoner in her home.

A 70-year-old was told Bain had left her small children home alone and needed a ride. The woman drove her, but Bain kept changing her story.

She parked the car and told Bain to get out, but when they were both out of the car Bain pushed her and managed to grab her handbag worth $30.

Judge Crosbie said Bain's previous record included 89 convictions for dishonesty, and 20 for burglaries.

Defence counsel Rupert Glover said Bain had been in prison for the best part of the last decade.

Judge Crosbie said Bain's pre-sentence report recommended prison, and little had been achieved in the rehabilitation programmes she had attended previously.

He said it was callous, reprehensible offending which preyed on the vulnerability of elderly people, and ordered her to pay reparation for the items stolen.