A SERIAL crook with over 200 previous offences escaped a jail term – after promising a judge he would never commit another crime.
Craig Nicholson pleaded for his liberty from the dock after admitting stealing two boxes of razors worth over £200 from a South Tyneside store.
The 35-year-old, of Prendwick Court in Hebburn, carried out the theft from Boots, in Jarrow, on Tuesday, May 13 – little more than a month after being released from another spell in prison.
He told South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court that he stole because he had no benefits – and would rather do so than ‘rob an old lady or burgle a house’.
District Judge Helen Cousins said due to his record custody was inevitable, but she agreed to suspend custody after hearing Nicholson’s candid pledge.
But she warned him he would be sent straight to prison if he went back on his courtroom vow.
Sarah Guest, prosecuting, said: “A member of staff saw the defendant in the aisle and thought he was concealing something. But he said he had nothing on him.
“He had already been banned from the shop and told not to come back. He left the store and Shopwatch were alerted.
“He sold the items on for £30 and spent the money in a bookmakers.
Christopher Brown, mitigating, said “He has 238 offences recorded against him.
“He is living with his mother and did not have any benefits. He was extremely stretched.
“When interviewed by the police, he said he stole the items. he didn’t know the value and admitted it was entirely wrong.
“The offence was low level and unsophisticated. He didn’t disguise his face at all.”
Speaking from the custody dock, Nicholson told the judge: “I’m sorry for stealing. I had no benefits when I got out of prison. I have had the same clothes on for a week.
“I didn’t mean to steal again but I’d rather steal than rob an old lady or burgle a house. I’m sorry.
“I was desperate, I’m sorry. I promise I won’t offending. I know it will be straight to jail.”
District Judge Cousins told Nicholson: “You have a terrible record. You have 238 previous convictions, the majority of which are for theft offences.
“This offence is so serious that custody is the right course of action. There is a point where everyone has to stop offending.
“I don’t know if you have reached that point or not.
“I will give you 16 weeks custody – but I will suspended it for 12 months.
“Breach it for any offence and you will go to jail.”
As well as a suspended jail term, Nicholson was ordered to pay £229.98 compensation to the store.