A single mother has won her appeal against being jailed for stealing a £10 pair of jeans.
Alison Hewitt (27) was instead ordered to serve 100 hours’ community service after senior judges ruled the original three-month jail term manifestly excessive.
After her successful challenge, she said: “I'm just glad it’s over.”
Her lawyers argued in the Court of Appeal yesterday that it went beyond a reasonable response to the offence of shoplifting.
Responding to his submissions, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said those who target shopkeepers trying to run businesses in difficult times must realise they risk going to jail.
Sir Declan said: “This is the sort of independent trader which the law is there to protect.”
He also agreed with the trial judge's description of Hewitt's actions as being calculated, premeditated and deliberate.
But he took note of her age, lack of any previous convictions and her parental responsibilities.
He said these factors may |not have been as obvious and |developed before the trial judge as they were on appeal.
Holding that the jail term was manifestly excessive, the court imposed 100 hours’ community service as a substitute.
Hewitt was on bail pending the appeal’s outcome.
Hewitt, who had been out on bail pending the outcome of the hearing, spoke only to express her relief at the resolution.
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Hewitt, of Patterson Park, Strabane, Co Tyrone, was convicted by a jury of stealing the jeans from a small clothes shop in Londonderry in August 2009.
A four-day Crown Court trial in the city heard how she took three pairs into a changing room, along with her young daughter in a pram, but only |returned two.
The severity of the punishment handed down to the first-time offender provoked widespread public shock and anger.