A CHEESED-off solicitor questioned whether justice was being served after it took over seven months to bring a food thief to court.
Stephen Smith was caught on CCTV snatching blocks of cheese from the Heron Foods store in St James Mall, Hebburn, on August 16 last year.
Police didn’t review the footage until the end of January, and Smith was arrested the following month.
He finally appeared before South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday and admitted the theft of the cheese, valued at £9.40.
The 48-year-old, of St Jude’s Terrace, South Shields, was handed an absolute discharge and ordered to pay compensation of £9.40 to the store.
Christopher Brown, defending, said: “I hope the cheese has been returned by now. It is over six months ago now that this offence took place.
“Why has it taken some six months to arrest him, and has the public interest been served in doing so?”
He added: “On February 22, he is arrested and fully admits it was him.
“He was open and honest when he made these admissions some six months after the offence took place.”
Glenda Beck, prosecuting, said; “A staff member saw a man and suspected he had concealed an item in his trousers before he left without offering payment.
“CCTV footage showed he had taken four blocks of cheese. On January 31, police reviewed the footage and saw that the male responsible was Smith.
“He was arrested on February 22 and fully admitted the offences.
“He said he would have done it because he was hungry but couldn’t remember much about it.”
Smith has a string of previous convictions and was jailed for four months in October for a burglary at the Secret Fantasies Lingerie store in Boldon Lane, South Shields.
He was also given an eight-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months in February last year after being convicted of harassing an ex-girlfriend.