Shop thief spared jail for third time - after magistrates agree it is '˜unjust' to lock her up

A serial shop thief has been slapped with a third suspended sentence order in just six months after magistrates agreed it would be '˜unjust' to lock her up.
Stephanie Thompson was spared jail after raiding the Aldi store on St Mark's Road in Sunderland.Stephanie Thompson was spared jail after raiding the Aldi store on St Mark's Road in Sunderland.
Stephanie Thompson was spared jail after raiding the Aldi store on St Mark's Road in Sunderland.

Stephanie Thompson, of Sunniside Lane, Cleadon, had already been given let-offs by courts in Newcastle and North Yorkshire for previous shoplifting offences when she was caught out carrying out a supermarket raid.

Thompson was spared prison again after admitting shop theft at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court - but warned she could be put behind bars if she doesn’t keep out of trouble.

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The court heard that the 49-year-old’s crime spree was sparked after she turned to booze due to problems with her marriage.

Elizabeth Dunbar, defending, told the court that Thompson’s offences were committed ‘under the influence of alcohol’ and said she is suffering from mental health problems.

Magistrates heard that Thompson had been forced to live on the streets for a period after leaving her marital home before being given a roof over her head by her nephew.

They were told she stole £36.71 worth of steak and chicken from Aldi, in St Mark’s Road, Sunderland, in order to put food on the table for herself and her relative.

She is now back living with her husband at their home.

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Glenda Beck, prosecuting, said: “On March 4, Thompson entered Aldi and selected packets of steak and chicken and put them in a Bag for Life.

“She went to the till and paid for a bottle of water but left without paying for the other items.

“Thompson was identified by police after an image from the CCTV footage was circulated.”

Elizabeth Dunbar, defending, issued a plea to magistrates not to hand Thompson a custodial sentence after she was previously given suspended prison terms in December and March, the second of which pre-dated the latest offence.

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She said to magistrates: “Her offences started relatively recently.

“She is a lady who has been married for over 30 years and lives in a substantial house, she and her husband do not want for money.”

She said there were a number of factors at play - including mental health and domestic issues.

She said: “She has turned to alcohol to cope and most of the offences have been committed under the influence of it. She has brought a bag here in case she is sent to jail. She has not come here unprepared.

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“She only stole to provide for her and her nephew. She was destitute at the time.”

Gary Cracknell, chair of the magistrates, said: “The court does have sympathy over your situation and we feel it would be unjust to activate your suspended sentence.

“That said, it doesn’t mean it can’t be activated in the future.

“Let’s hope we don’t see you anymore.”

Thompson was given a fresh two-week suspended sentence, while her existing suspended sentence from December was extended by six months.