A serial shoplifter thanked magistrates after he was spared jail – despite raiding a South Tyneside store while subject to a suspended prison term.
Michael Fox was caught on CCTV ripping off the security tags of a £40 bottle of aftershave and concealing it under his T-shirt before being detained by staff.
Fox, of Australia Grove, South Shields, admitted shop theft when he appeared before South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard he was made subject to a four-month suspended sentence in April for similar matters.
But magistrates gave the 38-year-old a ‘final chance’ to change his ways after hearing of his battle to overcome a drink and drug addiction and that he had considered ending his life.
Geoffrey Forrester, defending, said: “Vulnerable isn’t a word often used to describe people who appear to be sentenced at these courts, but is entirely appropriate in the case of Mr Fox.
“He is addicted to drink and drugs and has found it awfully difficult to break that addiction.
“He reached such a low point that he was fixated on trying to kill himself.
“There is a difference between a professional criminal and someone who staggers through, surviving one hour to the next.
“You could say a suspended sentence order is a suspended sentence order and he should go to prison.
“He is making progress with the probation service and they still want to work with him.
“He has shown gumption and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.”
Janice Bellamy, prosecuting, said: “The incident occurred on June 23.
“A security worker was watching CCTV when she saw the defendant remove the security tag from a bottle of DKNY fragrance and conceal it under his T-shirt.
“He is seen looking towards the security desk and dumps the item. He is then detained in the store.
Fox spent a month remanded in custody for a spate of shop thefts last September, before being given a community order.
His offences including stealing six bottles of vodka from Tesco in South Shields in three separate raids in as many days.
He also stole a bottle of Bacardi from the store and took coffee from the Lifestyle Express store in South Shields.
The crime spree was carried out between August 12 and September 11 of last year.
But only days after his release, he snatched three packets of razors from the Wilkinsons store in Jarrow.
In the same month he was also caught stealing 12 pouches of coffee worth £36 from Aldi in South Shields.
In March, he was handed a 12-month community order for fraudulent use of a debit card.
Barry Hunter, chairman of the magistrates, said: “This is your final, final chance.”
As he left the court, Fox thanked the bench.