Shoplifter claimed he stole to eat – but he’d already bought two bottles of wine

The Middleton Grange shopping centre.
The Middleton Grange shopping centre.

A shoplifter who claimed to be stealing to eat had enough money to buy wine.

Paul Downing stole £2.24 of groceries from Farm Foods in the Middleton Grange shopping centre, Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court heard.

“He was seen taking the items by a security guard who was monitoring the centre’s CCTV system,” said Sarah Traynor, prosecuting.

“Police were called and Downing was arrested.

“Among his possessions were two bottles of wine which had been purchased legitimately.

“When interviewed, Downing said he had no money, so had to pinch.

“The interviewing officer put it to him he had bought two bottles of wine that day, so could have bought the food instead.

“Downing conceded that was correct, but offered no further explanation.”

The court heard Downing has a ‘lengthy record’ for theft.

Downing, 44, of Helmsley Street, Hartlepool. admitted theft on October 20.

Sheila Ramshaw, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr Downing has been struggling to get his benefits sorted following his release from prison on October 12.

“He had no income, but was refused a crisis loan which left him in a state of desperation.

“He has now been made aware of food banks.

“It is not good that Mr Downing has offended again so soon after release, but he has been back inside overnight and we are only talking about £2.24 of food.”

The bench ordered Downing to observe a night time curfew for six weeks.