Addict mum given another chance

Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court

A Wigan mother has avoided another spell behind bars after justices responded to a plea to give her another chance to beat hard drugs.

The justices said that if she couldn’t give up illegal substances for herself she should do it for her children.

Amy Sharon O’Brien has nine previous convictions up to and including prison all connected with offences committed fuelling her addiction, Wigan and Leigh magistrates heard.

And she was given a six-week prison sentence for the latest crime this week - shoplifting - so that she could buy heroin.

But the justices then decided to suspend the sentence for 12 months after hearing from her defence team that the 26-year-old mother of five from Silverdale Avenue in Ince was now “determined” to get her life back on track.

The hearing was told that an extra incentive was that relatives who looked after her children only allowed her contact with them when she was free from drugs use.

Her sentence now includes stipulations of guaranteed attendance at drug rehabilitation sessions, a 10-day activity requirement and 7pm until 7am curfew for the next fortnight.

The chairman of the bench said: “We are giving you a chance. Either you want to take it, or not.

“Otherwise you are just going to end up back in prison.

“It is time to sort your life out and I urge you to grasp it with both hands.

“If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your children.”

Prosecutor Tess Kenyon said that to earn the latest appearance before the courts, O’Brien had been seen by staff stealing scented candles worth £24 from the Wigan B&Q DIY superstore on Frith Street.

When store detectives attempted to stop her leaving the premises, there was a struggle in which half of the candles were broken.

This led to the store demanding £10 in compensation from the defendant.

O’Brien was subsequently taken to Wigan Police headquarters where she tested positive for cocaine and opiates.

Peter Moran, defending, told the hearing that O’Brien had “quite a bit of recent history” with the judicial process.

She had been given a 30ml prescription of methadone to try to come off heroin, but this had failed to allay her craving.

As a result she had taken part in shoplifting forays to amass goods which could then be sold in exchange for heroin.

Mr Moran concluded: “Of her nine previous convictions, the vast majority are directly connected to drugs.

“She is aware that her actions are inappropriate and unacceptable and is determined to take the necessary steps.”

He added that her failure to appear at a previous hearing, triggering a bail act charge, was simply a matter of “forgetting” due to the affect of drugs.

Because of her dire financial circumstances, the magistrates agreed to waive the victim surcharge levy usually imposed.

But they ordered that the £10 compensation be added to the £1,000 unpaid fines O’Brien already owes which will now be taken from benefits.