Thief has £1.5k in unpaid fines

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A SHOP thief has been urged to ‘try to stay out of trouble’ after being caught on camera snatching meat from a South Tyneside supermarket.

Christopher Brooks was given an absolute discharge at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, after pleading guilty to stealing £12 worth of meat from Asda in Station Road, Hebburn.

The 50-year-old was also ordered to repay the £12 to the store.

Brooks, of Westmorland Court, Hebburn, had entered the store with an empty carrier bag on Friday, October 26, and took a piece of beef and a piece of lamb on display, then left the store without paying.

He jumped on a Metro train to Jarrow and sold the meat. Brooks was captured on CCTV carrying out the offence, and was later arrested by police.

The court heard that Brooks used the cash from the meat to feed himself, as he had missed a week of Jobseeker’s Allowance due to a mix-up over the date of a meeting about his benefits.

Glenda Beck, prosecuting, said: “He was relying on soup kitchens for food.

“He saw the lump of beef and piece of lamb and put them on the floor near some boxes.

“He then left with them without paying. He knew what he did was wrong.”

David Forrester, defending, told the court: “Christopher is a vulnerable adult with learning difficulties.

“Over the last 20 years, he has become a regular in Jarrow and Hebburn, doing odd jobs for people. He has recently become a Muslim, due to him working with a lot of takeaways in the area. But he also helps out at the Methodist Church in Hebburn, which shows how he wants to be accepted by others.

“He has not been in trouble for a couple of years, and made full admissions about his guilt in this case.”

The court heard that Brooks has more than £1,500 of court fines outstanding, so magistrates decided not to add to the financial burden in the hope that repayments can be made.

Chairman of the magistrates, Marian Craig, told Brooks: “We are never going to get those outstanding fines paid if we keep adding to them.

“We have decided to give you an absolute discharge. We do ask you to pay back £12 in compensation to the store.

“Just try your best to stay out of trouble – it will be much better for yourself, and hopefully we will get rid of the outstanding fines.”

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