Hard-up thief stole from Sports Direct after benefits were delayed

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A SHOPLIFTER blamed a delay in receiving his benefits after he was caught stealing more than £200 worth of sports clothes.

Darren Watson, 39, was arrested after he walked into Sports Direct in Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre and stuffed a bag full of clothes.

The theft happened as Watson was barred from entering the shopping centre and came just days after he appeared in court for a previous offence.

Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court heard Watson was caught red-handed with a foil-lined bag to avoid store security alarms.

Andrea Milson, prosecuting, said: “Mr Watson is barred from entering the shopping centre and this was communicated to security staff, who approached him.

“He was carrying a large sports bag. It was full of clothes with the tags still on them and he was detained.

“He started to struggle with staff until the arrival of the police.”

When questioned he said he would have tried to sell the clothes, worth £218, if he had got away with the theft.

Watson admitted the theft, which was committed on February 10. The magistrates heard Watson had only been released from court custody eight days earlier when he was given a community order for possession of a bladed article.

Neil Taylor, mitigating, said it meant Watson missed signing on for his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) benefit.

Mr Taylor said: “He tells me the theft was because he had no money. He relies on his benefits for his day-to-day existence.”

He said Watson had had a problem with accommodation and started associating again with the wrong kind of people.

Mr Taylor added: “All the items were recovered and there was no loss to the shop.”

Watson, of Alma Street, Hartlepool, was sentenced to a six-week prison sentence that was suspended for 12 months.

Chairman of the magistrates’ bench Martin Slimmings said: “The items that were taken were not low value, over £200. If you offend again there has to be something really important that it would be so unjust to stop you going to prison.”