South Shields thief masqueraded as delivery driver to avoid detection
A thief who masqueraded as a delivery driver in an attempt to avoid detection has narrowly avoided an immediate prison sentence.
Drug user Christopher Woodward, 31, found a DPD delivery uniform - complete with security lanyard - belonging to a former roommate in his temporary accommodation and used it to go shoplifting, South Tyneside magistrates heard.
The court was told he wore it to “look smart” and that he knew it was dishonest.
However, his defence team said he also wore it day-to-day because as a homeless person he didn’t have anything else to wear.
Prosecutor Laura Croft said: “On August 3, the store manager of Holland & Barrett in South Shields was on duty when her attention was drawn to a suspicious male wearing a red and black delivery uniform.
“She asked other staff to keep an eye on him as she was busy in the office.
“He left the store and the security alarm activated.
“When she reviewed CCTV she saw him take two jars of manuka honey worth £55.99 each.
“He placed them in his coat pocket and walked out of the store.
“Then on August 21, a police officer on duty at South Shields police station viewed the CCTV and recognised the defendant as she’s had previous dealings with him in relation to South Shields Shop Watch.
“The following day, that officer was on duty attending reports of a suspicious male in Asda, dressed as a DPD delivery driver.
“The officer spoke to the defendant, who was wearing a DPD cap, red and blue DPD fleece and lanyard.
“He was also carrying a large, empty cardboard box.
“He told her the uniform belonged to an ex-roommate, however, he had no explanation for the cardboard box.
“He was arrested on suspicion of theft on August 29.
“He was again wearing the DPD fleece.
“The uniform was seized from the defendant’s home address and he voluntarily handed the police officer a pair of DPD shorts.
“He was wearing the uniform when he committed this offences and he has been seen wearing it on other occasions.”
The court heard he told police: “I use it because it looks good and that it’s dishonest.
“Nobody would think you were going in there to steal.”
He explained he sold the honey to pay for crack cocaine.
Woodward, of Beach Road, South Shields, pleaded guilty to theft and going equipped for burglary.
He has 38 previous offences on his record, including four thefts in the last year alone.
David Forrester, defending, said: “Mr Woodward was stopped wearing this garb even when he wasn’t stealing.
“These were clothes that he wore, but he admits it was dishonest to have them.
“Mr Woodward is as far from sophisticated as you will get.
“He’s not someone who goes into a shop with foil lined bags or metal clippers - he’s taken two jars of honey.”
Mr Forrester added that at the time of the offence, Woodward had come off heroin onto a methadone script and had also started using crack cocaine after his mother and brother died in quick succession.
Bench chairman Gary Cracknell said: “We find this has crossed the custody threshold.
“This is due to your previous record and the fact that you have used a DPD delivery uniform.”
Woodward was sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment for the going equipped charge, with four weeks’ concurrent for the theft. Both sentences were suspended for 12 months, with requirements to complete 30 of specified activity and nine months’ drug rehabilitation.