Addict stole to pay off drug debt

A PROLIFIC thief has been spared jail by magistrates after admitting stealing to pay off a drug debt.

Rachel Johnson – described in court as “bright, polite and articulate” – was arrested after stealing £99.95 of perfume from The Fragrance Shop, and £105 of costume jewellery from Dorothy Perkins, both in Hartlepool.

The 25-year-old mum-of-one – who has 146 offences to her name – appeared before Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court in custody and pleaded guilty to the two offences.

Her solicitor, David Smith, told justices that Johnson had managed to get herself off heroin and was on a methadone programme.

However, a wrongly-dated methadone prescription meant she could not get the legitimate drugs she needed, so she bought some of the class A substitute on the street.

He said: “She has for a number of years been gripped by a heroin addiction and was at one time taking £100 of the drug every day. She’s now on a drug rehabilitation programme and is doing her best to sort herself out for her young son.

“Due to the problem with this prescription of methadone, which is so vital in this process, she started to withdraw badly. Instead of going and buying heroin she set to obtain methadone and bought some to keep the procedure going.

“She has very little by way of income so put it on tick.”

The court heard that Johnson could not find the cash to repay the debt and could not rely on her mum and step-father to bail her out, as they have done in the past, because they were abroad on business.

“The people to whom she owed this money came to where she is staying and were throwing rocks at her windows,” he said.

“It was the people coming for their money. She was scared because in the past she’s been assaulted, hospitalised, and imprisoned in their homes for owing money due to the extortionate rates of interest.

“On this occasion she was given an extra 24-hours and so she went to Middleton Grange Shopping Centre and stole these items.”

He added: “She is from a good background, she’s bright, polite and articulate and is due to start a humanities course at college in September. She has previously been enrolled on this course but this has been interrupted due to problems with drugs. However, she excels in these course and she’s effectively top of the class, getting As for essays. She wants to improve her life.”

Chairman of the bench Nigel Guerin sentenced Johnson, of Church Street, Hartlepool, to 10-weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.