A prolific thief who stole from a town centre shop just days after being released from prison has been given a chance to turn his life around.
Drug user Darren Kay already had more than 90 previous convictions for theft when he targeted Wigan town centre’s Marks and Spencer store on its penultimate day of business.
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court heard he was on licence, having left prison seven days earlier, but he was not being recalled.
And justices decided to give him a chance to clean up his act by not imposing an immediate custodial sentence for this latest offence.
After describing Kay’s criminal record as “unenviable”, Alan Mather, chairman of the bench, said: “The easiest thing to do would be send you back to prison.
“But given that your primary need is to rehabilitate yourself off drugs and that in future will prevent further offending, that’s what we will do.”
Tess Kenyon, prosecuting, told the bench that two members of security from different shops saw 38-year-old Kay leave the Standishgate store with four coats contained in a hold-all on Tuesday of this week.
He was challenged and asked if he could be let off, but the police were called and he was arrested.
Kay, who lives on Scholes, pleaded guilty to stealing the coats, which were together worth £336.
Miss Kenyon said that the defendant already had more than 90 theft convictions to his name, as well as convictions for other types of offences.
He was last in court in August, when an eight-week suspended prison sentence imposed for stealing charity boxes from a Scholes takeaway was activated, and a further 12 weeks of imprisonment were handed down for thefts from other shops.
Bob Toppin, defending, said: “It’s a standard, classic, awful record because of drug addiction.
“A drug that elevated people, lifted people up one time, becomes their raison d’etre.
“It’s all-consuming, they need it to eke out a basic existence.”
Kay was dependant on drugs and had problems with his methadone prescription after leaving prison on October 28, the hearing was told.
Mr Toppin described the theft from Marks and Spencer as a “clumsy” offence and that Kay was a “well-known” shoplifter who was recognised by staff.
But he said that the probation service had decided not to recall him to prison for committing a new offence while on licence.
“I was very surprised when they said they weren’t going to recall him, but they want to give him a chance,” he said.
A probation officer suggested Kay’s sentence could have a drug rehabilitation requirement incorporated into it to help him address his issues.
The bench imposed an eight-week prison sentence but suspended it for 12 months.
It was accompanied by an order that he complete a nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement and 20 days of rehabilitation activities.
Kay must also pay a £122 victim surcharge and £85 towards prosecution costs.