A SERIAL thief is “winning the fight” against his demons – despite him racking up his 97th criminal conviction for a pair of shop raids in a matter of weeks – magistrates were told.
Stephen Smith stole a bottle of Glenfiddich whisky worth £27 from a Tesco Metro shop in Newcastle , before stealing £30 worth of food from the Sainsbury store, in Stanhope Road, South Shields, less than three weeks later, on Wednesday, October 27.
The 49-year-old, of St Jude’s Terrace, South Shields, admitted two counts of shop theft when he appeared before South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.
Smith’s defence solicitor admitted that Smith had an “unenviable record” and a history of drug use but was now “fighting his demons and winning”.
Paul Anderson, prosecuting, said: “The first offence took place on October 9. He was seen taking a bottle on CCTV footage. He goes to exit the store without paying but is stopped by a security officer. He was detained in the store and the bottle was recovered.
“When he was interviewed by police, he said he stole it in a rush of blood. He said someone had offered him money for the drink.
“He was going to sell it on for £10.
“He has come before the courts on a regular basis, and these matters bring him up to 97 convictions.”
Smith stole chicken and gammon from Sainsbury, on October 27, and left without paying. He was again spotted on CCTV and later arrested.
Mr Anderson added: “He enters the store and takes meat products and leaves without paying.
“A customer alerts staff about what happened. CCTV is viewed and Smith is identified. When he was arrested by police and shown the CCTV, he admits it was him.
“He said he only had £4 on him, and was starving.”
Adrian Irons, defending, said: “It’s fair to say Mr Smith has an unenviable record, I can’t dispute that but you have to look at the man before you today, not the man of 10 years ago.
“He has had problems in the past with drugs, but he is conquering that problem.
“The battle is never over, but he is facing that battle and winning every day. He is fighting his demons and winning.
“The offences were low-level and unsophisticated. He takes the whisky from Tesco, and is noticed in a matter of seconds.
“He doesn’t get anywhere near to getting out of the shop.”
Mr Irons said at the time of the meat theft from Sainsbury, Smith’s benefits had been sanctioned and he was desperate for food.
Magistrates were told Smith is completing training courses in order to get into work.
Smith was given a 12-month community order and must complete 50 hours of unpaid work during that period.
He must also pay a £60 victim surcharge and £85 court costs.