A COUPLE of shoplifters were caught red-handed – trying to return stolen sweets to the shelves a South Tyneside shop.
Gemma Campbell and Billy Carter were spotted by suspicious staff in Nisa in Lord Street, South Shields, picking up confectionery as they walked around the convenience store.
The recovering drug addicts were then seen to put some of the items back, but staff had already called the police.
When officers arrived, the 29-year-olds had left, but their descriptions were passed on.
Campbell and Carter, both of Ingham Grange, South Shields, pleaded guilty to attempted theft at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
Stan Sudworth, prosecuting, said: “They were in Nisa at about 4.30pm when the manager rang the police to say he had seen them stealing sweets but then putting them back on the shelves.
“Their descriptions were passed to the police, who realised who they were and went to their home, where the officers found other stolen goods – mostly chocolate bars.”
Tom Morgan, defending, said: “They were shopping together and had money to pay for things.
“They were going to steal the goods however, but had a change of heart and Mr Carter began to put the goods back on the shelves.
“Miss Campbell has a history of offending due to a former heroin addiction. She is now clean after a spell in custody.”
Mr Morgan said Carter, who has 53 previous convictions, is now testing negative for heroin, despite being an addict since he was 15.
He added: “He started stealing when he was 15 after falling in with an older crowd of criminals.
“He would be told to go into a shop and steal something, and when he came out, they would sell the goods on to buy heroin.
“He would take the heroin, but didn’t understand how serious it was.
“It is a big step for him to be successfully working with probation and testing negative for heroin. He’s a pleasant man who wants to change his life.”
Chairman of the bench Stephen Bradley said: “It is difficult getting off drugs – well done for trying.
“You knew you were doing the wrong thing here, and putting the items back on the shelves shows some maturity.”
Campbell and Carter – who are both originally from Sunderland – were given six-month conditional charges.