South Shields drug abuser keeps freedom despite month-long shoplifting spree

A drug addict who partnered with a serial thief friend to target South Tyneside stores for a month-long shoplifting spree has been spared jail.
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Substance abuser Dillon Lawson, 28, was handed eight-week prison terms for four offences committed jointly with bearded Marc McDonald, 39.

Borough magistrates also gave Lawson, of Belle Vue Crescent, Tyne Dock, the same concurrent sentence for six thefts undertaken solo.

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But he kept his liberty after each was suspended for 18 months, in the hope he can be spurred into giving up drugs.

McDonald, of the same address, who joined his pal out of misplaced loyalty, was ordered to pay £135 compensation to retailers.

The case was heard at South Tyneside Magistrates' CourtThe case was heard at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court
The case was heard at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court

Prosecutor Lucy Todd said the partners in crime stole £40 of meat from a Sainsbury's outlet in South Shields on Tuesday, October 10.

Two days later, they nabbed £40 of chocolates from a town branch of Tesco, and returned to Sainsbury's on Sunday, October 22, to pilfer £40 of foodstuffs.

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Their last joint illegal enterprise was on Thursday, November 9, when they stole £70 of pizzas from Sainsbury's.

Lawson also took £30 of biscuits from Sainsbury's on Monday, October 16, and £63 of chocolates from B&M in South Shields on Monday, November 20.

And he breached the terms of a community order, imposed in October for four other thefts, by failing to keep two appointments with the Probation Service.

Ms Todd said: “They were deliberately targeting stores. The crown applies for compensation for all the stores.”

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Lawson, whose criminal record includes 12 previous theft or kindred offences, pleaded guilty to six counts of shop theft and one of breaching a community order.

McDonald, who has 22 previous convictions from 56 offences, including 26 for theft or kindred, pleaded guilty to four shop thefts.

Geoffrey Forrester, defending Lawson, urged magistrates to spare his client prison so he may finally engage with the terms of his 18-month order.

The order carries 200 hours of unpaid work, 15 rehabilitation days and completion of the Probation Service-run Thinking Skills programme.

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Mr Forrester said the alternative was Lawson serving a short spell behind bars and regaining his freedom in a worse position.

He added: “The court previously felt that the issues he has would be best addressed by the order made in October.

“It’s the all too familiar story of addiction to drugs. The hope was that he would engage with the order.

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“It is hoped within the Thinking Skills and rehabilitation that he would break his dependence on drugs which leads to more offending.”

Nick Moore, defending McDonald, said: “He knows he shouldn’t have done these things, but his co-accused was going out and he felt guilty.

“He felt some loyalty to his friend. He has used heroin in the past but is dealing with that.”

Lawson was also ordered to pay £197 compensation, with no court costs.

McDonald was also fined £80, with £85 court costs and a £32 victim surcharge.