Hungry shoplifter caught for 156th time

A prolific, but not very good, shoplifter tried to take advantage of a thieves’ happy hour when Burnley Boots has less staff on, yet still got caught – for the 156th time – a court heard.

Burnley Magistrates Court.
Burnley Magistrates Court.

The town’s magistrates heard how ex-heroin addict Craig Joseph Thomas (41) had helped himself to some Ghost perfume, worth £52, but got stopped as he left. The defendant, who was given a drugs programme in January, claimed he had not eaten for two days and was desperate for cash for food.

Thomas had struck at 8-50am using what police describe as a “tactic” of shoplifters in the town.

Prosecutor Tracy Yates told the court: “The store opens at 8am and they go in early in the morning when less staff are present, to hopefully, get away with more shoplifting.”

Thomas, however, didn’t have much luck and was stopped by a security officer viewing CCTV. The defendant was seen to select a bottle of perfume and put it in a carrier bag. He left without paying, but was detained and the scent recovered.

Miss Yates said, when questioned, Thomas said he only received £36 a week in benefits and would have sold the fragrance to anybody who would buy it. He was remorseful. She added he had 256 previous offences on his record, 155 for theft.

The defendant, of Randall Street, Burnley, admitted theft, in breach of a conditional discharge, from Boots PLC on October 9th. He was given a 24-month conditional discharge and was told to pay a £150 criminal courts charge and a £15 victim surcharge.

Damien Pickup (defending) said: “He has had a long-standing heroin problem in the past and pretty much all of his previous offences have been motivated by drugs use, to fund that drugs use and what was significant heroin use in the past. Since earlier this year, he has been free of heroin and is on a methadone prescription, which is gradually being reduced.

“This offence was motivated by financial reasons. He was claiming benefits, they were stopped and he was placed on Hardship Allowance of £36 a week. That’s what he had to live off. He couldn’t live off that and the motivation behind this particular offence was he stole the perfume with the intention of selling it to get some money to buy food.”

The solicitor continued: “He is now on £110 a week employment and support allowance and he assures the court that he will not revert to this kind of situation again.”

Sentencing, Bench chairman John James said: “Your record of shoplifting is absolutely appalling, quite frankly.” He added: “There are food banks readily available. There is help out there for you.”