Ex-soldier ‘stole out of sheer desperation’

Hayes appeared at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court.
Hayes appeared at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court.

A starving ex-soldier who stole food in an act of ‘absolute desperation’ has been banned from a South Shields supermarket.

Neil Hayes snatched razor blades from the shelves of Asda, in Coronation Street, South Shields, to sell on to buy food, as well as milk and cereal to stave off his hunger in a double crime of ‘need not greed’, a court was told.

The 26-year-old admitted two counts of shop theft – from March 30 and April 6 – when he appeared before South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

The hapless thief was caught in the act by in-store CCTV on both occasions.

Hayes stole razor blades worth £25 in his first swoop, before lifting more razors and milk and cereal worth £22.89 just six days later.

Christopher Brown, defending, said Hayes served with the armed forces for four years and is seeking help from a military charity in a bid to get his life back on track.

Justin Gibson, prosecuting, said: “At 7.45pm on March 30, Hayes enters the store and is seen carrying a basket.

“He goes past the self-service tills and sets off the alarms as he runs off out of the store.

“He is captured on CCTV. CCTV is later reviewed of the second theft, in which he takes razor blades, cereal and milk, before leaving without offering payment.”

Christopher Brown, defending, said: “He was in a situation of absolute desperation.

“He had no money at the time.

“He stole the razor blades to sell on to buy food and stole the cereal and milk to eat as he was absolutely starving.

“Has he stolen from greed? No.

“Has he stolen out of need? Yes.

“He served with the armed forces for four years until 2010.

“This is somewhat distessing for him after what had originally been a good career.”

Magistrates handed Hayes a six-month community order and banned him from entering the Asda store during that period.

He must also pay compensation to the supermarket of £47.89 for the stolen goods.