South Shields thief makes 'cost of living' crime claim after drug admission

A bungling thief was caught stealing from a South Tyneside health care shop after she removed stickers instead of security tags from her stash.
McFarlane will be sentenced at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court later this month.McFarlane will be sentenced at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court later this month.
McFarlane will be sentenced at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court later this month.

Melisa McFarlane, 41, tore off sealants designed to show goods at Holland & Barrett’s outlet in King Street, South Shields, had not been opened.

McFarlane, of Oxford Street, near Chichester, South Shields, left without paying on Tuesday, January 17, but staff were alerted and found her crime caught on CCTV, a court heard.

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After her arrest, the serial thief and former heroin user, who has 68 similar convictions, told police she had stolen the £166 of goods to buy drugs.

But she later backtracked and insisted she had targeted the outlet to get money to buy food and pay utility bills.

Prosecutor Glenda Beck told borough magistrates: “Ms McFarlane entered Holland & Barrett and approached shelving and removed several items which she placed in a bag.

“She had removed what she believed were security seals but which were only to show that the product hadn’t been opened.

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“Once the goods were in her bag, she left the shop without paying. Staff reviewed CCTV, which showed the offence taking place.

“She was later interviewed and shown the CCTV. She initially said she had stolen for drugs but then changed to say it was for food and utilities.”

The court heard McFarlane committed the theft just four weeks after pleading guilty at the same court to another stealing matter.

For her earlier offence, she was sentenced to a six-month conditional discharge, with her latest crime putting her in breach of that order.

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McFarlane pleaded guilty to charges of shop theft and breaching a conditional discharge.

Val Bell, defending, said: “She removed some stickers, they weren’t security seals at all.

“I have to concede that aggravating factors are that this was committed while subject to a conditional discharge and her history of previous offences.

“She is on benefits and the offence was committed because she needed money. In the past there has been a heroin addiction, but she doesn’t use heroin now.”

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Magistrates adjourned the case for reports and McFarlane will be sentenced at the same court on Tuesday, February 21.