Shoplifter is told to end crime career

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A shoplifter was told to expect repeated spells in jail if she failed to end her eight-year crime career.

The warning came as a five-month prison term, suspended for 18 months, was imposed on Michelle Leebetter, 32, of Weightman Drive, Giltbrook.

Recorder Richard Swain also ordered her to carry out 100 hours unpaid community work and put her on probation for 18 months.

He told her:”You have proved yourself to be a habitual shoplifter. If you cannot start breaking the habit, there can be no question a prison sentence is richly deserved.

“Keep stealing items from shops and, rest assured, you will keep going back to prison,” he said at Derby Crown Court, where he described his sentence as “a most unusual step.”

Alex Wolfson, prosecuting, said Leebetter was spotted in the Sainsbury’s shop at Ripley on April 4 at 2.45pm.

A store detective noticed her put some meat in her handbag and leave. When challenged, Leebetter asked: “Can I just give it to you back?”

A search then uncovered chicken breasts and other cuts of meat. The total value was £54.90 but all items were handed back.

When questioned, Leebetter said she planned to sell the food to raise money for her rent.

Mr Wolfson said Leebetter had 45 offences on her criminal record, including 21 for theft. “She started shop theft in 2004,” he told the recorder.

Sarah Brown, mitigating, said Leebetter pleaded guilty immediately in front of magistrates and committed the offence while on prison licence.

A ‘long term drug addiction’ had caused previous offending but on this occasion she had severe money problems after being freed from custody.

“Due to a change in the law, her rent had increased dramatically, leaving her with little money to help on a day-to-day basis.

“Problems with her finances were fairly extreme at the time and have been relieved,” said Ms Brown.

Leebetter had got a part-time job which she hoped could become permanent and full-time, she added.