Shoplifter stole meat after having benefits stopped

'NOTHING TO EAT' ... Stephen Smith stole �9 of meat from Iceland in South Shields.
'NOTHING TO EAT' ... Stephen Smith stole �9 of meat from Iceland in South Shields.

A PROLIFIC thief who stole meat from a South Tyneside store while subject to a community order as he had no money to buy food has been spared further punishment – after a court was told he is getting his life in order.

Stephen Smith snatched £9 of meat from Iceland in South Shields on June 12 after being strapped for cash, as his benefits had been sanctioned.

The 48-year-old, who has more than 140 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to shop theft at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

The court heard he was already subject to a community order handed out by the court for another offence last month.

Laura Johnson, defending, admitted Smith has a ‘lengthy record’, but said he has now been trying to gain employment and has given up alcohol, which has been at the root of much of his offending.

Magistrates agreed to allow the community order to continue and gave Smith a six-month conditional discharge.

Stan Sudworth, prosecuting, said: “A stock supervisor at the store was told about a possible offence of theft that had occured.

“CCTV was viewed and a description was given to police of a male who had taken meat without offering payment and left the store.

“He is seen putting the meat in his jacket. Smith was subsequently identified by police and later arrested.”

Laura Johnson, defending, said: “Mr Smith has a lengthy history of offences, the majority of which are for shop thefts. He doesn’t seek to hide away from it.

“He is 48. He tells me he committed these offences as his benefits had been sanctioned for 26 weeks.

“He was suffering financially and had nothing to eat.”

“He saw he was being followed by the police and discarded the meat in a waste bin in the street.

“He tells me his benefits have been sorted out and he has managed to resolve his financial issues.

“He is now trying to get work as a labourer.

“He wants to get himself in work and is taking steps in the right direction.

“The majority of his offences have related to alcohol misuse – but he tells me he doesn’t drink any more and has sorted out his issues with drink.

“This offence was a blip.”

Smith, of St Jude’s Terrace, South Shields, was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay compensation of £9 and a victim surcharge of £15.

Twitter: @shieldsgazchris