A homeless couple who told police they stole food because they had not eaten for days have been jailed.
Mum-to-be Ashley Forster, 21, and Benjamin Hall, 27, both pleaded guilty to leaving the Monsoon Kitchen restaurant in North Bridge Street, Sunderland, without paying their £46.50 bill when they appeared before city magistrates.
Prosecutor Lee Poppet told the court the pair had been arrested in The Wheatsheaf pub and had been ‘extremely compliant’ when interviewed.
The court heard both had a previous record for similar offences and were subject to suspended sentences imposed just a week before the offence.
Hall also admitted stealing sweets worth £4 from Poundland in Sunderland. When arrested he told police he was ‘hungry and starving.’
Gerry Armstrong, for Forster, said:
“This is someone who was placed in the care system, who acquired a criminal record when she should have been protected, and who now finds herself before the court.
“She found herself without anyone to support her and everywhere she turned, I am afraid to say, doors were closed in her face.
“This offence was committed not out of a sense of devilment but out of necessity because, as she said to police ‘I had not eaten for four days.”
Forster, who was in the early stages of pregnancy, had made tentative contact with family in Scotland and was keen to have the suspended sentence activated in order to get it out of the way.
“She wants to draw a line under her time in Sunderland, to get this sentence removed and start afresh when she is released,” Mr Armstrong told the court.
Kate Meek, for Hall, said the pair had been in a ‘mutually supportive’ relationship.
The offences had been committed out of desperation.
“It was not because they had a drug problem to fund,” she said.
“It was not because they had alcohol or gambling problems to fund. It was because they had no funds and had not been able to eat.
“They are straightforward, low level, unaggravated and, to some extent, mitigated offences of desperation.”
Magistrates jailed both defendants for two weeks and activated suspended sentences of eight weeks for Forster and 16 weeks for Hall. Both were ordered to pay compensation.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 12 Sept 2014