A man who ended up in court after he and his wife took worthless discarded food from a supermarket yard has revealed his desperate plight.
Paul Barker was seen sifting through out-of-date groceries at the back of Tesco in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham, when the couple were caught on CCTV at midnight on January 5, Sunderland magistrates heard.
But after a judge said he could impose no financial penalty on the 39-year-old for his actions, Barker described his existence as “not really living at all.”
Prosecutor Jeanette Smith said Barker and wife Kerry, 29, were seen in the rear compound of the Hetton Road Tesco Express store, removing a pallet of food.
However, Mrs Smith added that, although the items were to be thrown out, they were in a secure compound, adding that Tesco’s policy is not to give away discarded food.
Barker, of Caroline Street, Hetton admitted theft. He already has £300 in outstanding fines owing to the court.
Angus Westgarth, defending, said:
“At the time, they hadn’t had benefits or any money since December. It just seems that the state has failed them.
“They were told they would not get any benefits for a year from December. He is having to duck and dive to feed himself. Without a crystal ball I can see that this will continue to happen.
“He is trying to survive however he can. I think they call this way of living ‘freeganism’. They take waste food and consume it.
“They are managing to live as, I think, Social Services are paying some money for housing. Their children are living with grandparents because of the situation.”
District Judge Roger Elsey said:
“How are they expected to live?
“It seems to me the appropriate punishment for taking food which is of no value is an absolute discharge. I clearly can’t make any financial order.”
> Well done that judge !
Barker’s wife Kerry is due before magistrates this week, charged with the same offence.
Speaking at home after the case, Barker said:
“I do it because I need food, I’m not nicking for profit like most.
“You have to be careful with fish, but most out-of-date food you can eat, but things like bread might be slightly harder.
“They should give it to people who need it. But they don’t care, it’s just money making.
“It’s wrong, it’s horrible, it’s like not really living at all. It’s like being in jail. I’m banned from all the shops.”
Barker said he broke his back in a fall while working as a scaffolder and is out of work. He also used to work with young offenders after he got out of rehab, where he was treated for his addiction to crack and heroin, which he used for a third of his life.
He added that his wife has a degree in sociology, but was forced to give up her job at Durham County Council five years ago due to depression. The couple’s children, a four-year-old boy and two-year-old daughter are living with grandparents in Cumbria.
Tesco said that they do donate surplus food to people in need, through charity Fareshare and also redistribute food donated by their customers, to the Trussell Trust.
“Working with the charity FareShare, we have already distributed over three million meals worth of surplus food to people in need and we are working on ways to make sure more surplus food is donated in this way,” a spokesman said.
“It is not safe to take food from bins and that is why we work with charities to redistribute surplus food that is safe to eat to people who need it.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 12 May 2015
A man went on a shoplifting spree after a foreign trip in search of work turned sour and he returned to Sunderland empty handed and in debt.
Sunderland magistrates were told how Ernest Bulmer Jenkins headed to Sweden last year hoping to find a job, but came home after a month to find his benefits had been stopped.
Because he had not been in touch with the authorities he was left with no income for seven months and was forced to borrow money to survive.
The 30-year-old has now been handed a three-month suspended prison sentence after turning to crime to repay his debts.
Prosecutor Jeanette Smith said Jenkins, , took £100-worth perfume from Debenhams on October 21.
He was arrested and released on bail, but on December 17, Jenkins pilfered £22.95 of meat from Hendon’s HJ Foodstores. Having been bailed again, he and two others went into Sainsbury’s in Silksworth Lane, on January 6, and took £410 of drinks.
None of the items were recovered, Mrs Smith added.
Bulmer admitted three counts of theft and asked for another three – relating to the theft of £285 from Boots – to be taken into consideration.
“Around eight or nine months ago, Mr Jenkins went to Sweden to stay with family members,” his solicitor Heather Bolton said.
“He was there for four weeks, but returned to Sunderland because he was unable to find work.
“He was sanctioned for not going to the benefits agency for that four weeks, the period when he was away. For seven or so months he’s had no income whatsoever.
“He was borrowing money from friends and acquaintances. He didn’t borrow from loan sharks, but he did have some pressure on him to repay his debt.”
The bench suspended the jail sentence for 12 months, and told Jenkins to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work. and he was told to pay £322.95 in compensation, due to his limited means.
Source – Sunderland Echo 11 Feb 2014