Poverty-stricken thief stole Co-op goods to raise money for food

Chesterfield magistrates' court.

Chesterfield magistrates' court.

A poverty-stricken thief was spared from jail after he stole steaks and washing gels out of desperation to raise money for food.

Chesterfield magistrates’ court heard on Tuesday, June 7, how Carl Christopher Pepper, 33, of Argyll Road, Ripley, stole Vanish washing gels and steaks belonging to a Co-op store at Alfreton.

Prosecuting solicitor Angela Hadfield said: “A member of staff at the store knows Mr Pepper and as the defendant was leaving the Co-op on May 1 she saw his jacket bulging while he was concealing something.

“CCTV showed the defendant with two Vanish gels and when he returned to the store on May 8 staff noticed him again and he stole steak.

“Officers attended his home on May 9 and as they said they were going to search his property he took them to a freezer and produced two steaks but he explained the Vanish gels had now gone.”

Pepper, who has previous convictions going back to 1999, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and brought a packed bag to court expecting a custodial sentence.

But defence solicitor Chris Hallas explained he had acted out desperation because his benefits had been stopped.

Mr Hallas said: “These offences were committed out of desperation when significantly his previous offending had been committed to fuel a chronic drug habit.”

Pepper had been struggling for money while he was moving from Chesterfield to Ripley, according to Mr Hallas, and he had difficulties registering with a new GP and getting a sick note which meant his Employment Allowance benefits were stopped.

Mr Hallas added: “He hadn’t eaten for three days and asked the Job Centre for a food parcel but was told he wasn’t entitled so he helped himself to these items which were subject to the theft charges.

“He sold the Vanish gels for £5 and bought himself microwave meals which he eked out for five days and he was planing to sell the steaks for £5 to buy five more microwave meals.

“Shortly afterwards, he went to the Addaction support group and they said that if he had come to them they would have given him a food package.

“This offending was not motivated by drugs but was motivated out of desperation.”

The court heard how Pepper is keen to lead a law-abiding life but the circumstances were against him and he has stayed drug-free and wants to build a relationship with his son.

District Judge Andrew Davison sentenced Pepper to a six month community order with a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement.

Pepper was also ordered to pay £50 costs, £18.66 compensation and an £85 victim surcharge.