Shoplifter bit security tags off bottles of rum

Burnley Magistrates' Court
Burnley Magistrates' Court

A prolific shoplifter who removed security tags off alcohol bottles with her teeth has been spared jail after her latest spree.

Drug addict Mary Howarth was spotted in Tesco in Burnley, a store she repeatedly targets, biting tags off two £19.50 bottles of Captain Morgans rum.

She then put them back on the shelves before removing them. Howarth was stopped and the bottles were confiscated.

She was detained, owned up and asked if the store could “turn a blind eye” to what she had done, the town’s magistrates’ court heard.

The 45-year-old, who has a long record and has taken drugs for 20 years, was recently said to be banned from Tesco.

She also went thieving at New Look and Wilko and was in breach of an eight month conditional discharge for theft, imposed on September 9th.

At the end of June, the defendant had stolen children’s clothing worth £128 from Tesco after removing the security tags.

Howarth, who had flouted three conditional discharges at the same time, had been given a six -month community order with a drugs programme.

She claimed she committed the latest crimes as she had owed money and had been threatened by a man who had mowed down her sister and left her on crutches for non-payment of a debt.

Howarth, of Dall Street, Burnley, admitted criminal damage on September 19th, theft of clothing worth £46.96 from New Look on September 28th, stealing a bottle of Jack Daniels and two bottles of Bells whisky to the value of £65 from Tesco on September 30th, an identical offence the day before and stealing eight packs of washing gel, to the value of £42 belonging to WIlko Stores.

She was given eight weeks in prison, suspended for a year with a six-month drug rehabilitation requirement.

Mr John Rusius, defending, said Howarth stayed out of trouble when she was on a stable prescription.

She was currently on a drugs programme and it was particularly surprising she had continued to offend when she was engaging well with Inspire ( the treatment service) and was on a methadone prescription.

Mr Rusius continued: “There is an explanation. She and her sister owe money to a certain person.

“That person has started with pressure, that led to threats and that led to violence.

“Her sister was run over by the male for non-payment of a debt. She was told ‘you will go shoplifting and pay the debt’.”