A POLICE chief insists prison works “exceptionally well for the victims of crime” after a thief with 127 offences to his name struck once again just minutes after walking free from court.
Stephen Tobin featured in the Hartlepool Mail last Wednesday after stealing on the same day he was released from prison.
And only minutes after he walked out of court with a fine for that offence, he was back to his old tricks by swiping a mobile phone from a shop.
The brave owner of Duran Photography, in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool, made sure Tobin was brought to justice again by grabbing him and holding him until security guards arrived.
Yet despite Charlie Duran’s efforts and Tobin’s obvious contempt for the law, the prolific criminal walked free again after being given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court.
Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, of Hartlepool Police, commended Mr Duran for his actions and said Tobin is one of a “handful” of criminals responsible for the majority of crime in the town.
He said officers even mark their prison release dates in a diary because they know it won’t be long before they break the law again.
Supt Gudgeon told the Mail: “I’m not criticising any element of the judicial system in what I say, but if we are really going to help people, the whole system needs to be more joined up.
“I do fully understand the challenges the judiciary have with the disposals available to them and I understand it is also frustrating for them sometimes, but prison does work. It works exceptionally well for the victims of crime.”
The Mail told how Tobin, of Vicarage Gardens, Hartlepool, was released from a 12-week jail term for burglary and theft on Friday, September 23, but walked into the Sports Direct shop in Middleton Grange and stole a pair of trainers.
The 30-year-old was ordered to pay a £65 fine, £20 compensation, £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge when he appeared in court on Tuesday, October 4.
But minutes later he was being arrested again after going straight over to the shopping centre and stealing a phone.
Supt Gudgeon added: “We regularly see the same people coming through our cells, and after a period of time they eventually get a custodial sentence. Then they come out again and we go back to square one.
“Some of these people have got very chaotic lifestyles, with issues such as drugs, alcoholism and broken families and relationships. Without some stability in their life, they will never improve.
“We have about 20 crimes a day in Hartlepool and have got crime down to a level where we are in a position to focus on the prolific offenders. We know who they are and we can target them.”
Mr Duran told the Mail he has been left suspicious of people and wary to leave his store so open to passers-by after Tobin struck.
The photographer said: “I gave chase and caught up with him near the exit and managed to restrain him. I grabbed his wrist and stopped him running away.
“I challenged him about the phone and he denied it. But he produced it out of his pocket when security arrived.
“His speech was very slurred and he didn’t seem with it. I don’t know if he’d been drinking or what.
“It makes you suspicious of people. We are now very wary.
“We have been here for a couple of years and had nothing like this happen to us before. It’s just very disappointing.”