Belfast Telegraph

Would AWT's defence get us out of the stew?

By Lindy McDowell

Antony Worrall Thompson, celebrity shoplifter - now there's an unexpected item in the bagging area. Old AWT as he is more snappily known has been given a caution by the police after being caught five times in 16 recent days nicking stuff in his local Tesco.

On each occasion he had failed to scan wine and cheese at the self-service machine.

There's taking "add a pinch of cheese" a mite too literally.

Being in the public eye, AWT must have known what he was doing was a recipe for disaster.

And no wonder the media are currently making a meal of his wrong-doing. As a celebrity chef he has handed it to them on a plate.

Not only does he command public interest as a celebrity but as a chef he has served up to the headline writers a whole smorgasbord of foodie puns they have been tucking into with gusto.

He's been grilled by the cops, his goose is well and truly cooked. ...

But sadly he's not the only one being roasted by the fallout.

As AWT himself says, he has let down his family: "I am so sorry for all my recent stupid and irresponsible actions; I am of course devastated for my family and friends, whom I've let down and will seek the treatment that is clearly needed.

"I am not the first, and I certainly won't be the last person to do something without rhyme or reason - what went through my head, only time will tell."

What the 'treatment' will involve we aren't told. But rehab for wrongdoing has become a great celebrity get-out. "I wasn't myself at the time otherwise I wouldn't have done it," oddly enough doesn't work quite so well for the ordinary rest of us.

Not for the confused little old lady, or the distracted young mother or for the stressed worker in a rush who hasn't clocked up four previous instances of tea-leafing. Not for someone who just innocently forgets to pay for an item as any of us so easily could.

As far as I am aware most of these cases could expect to find themselves up before the courts - without the option of "treatment" to help them discover what was going through their head at the time.

And once before Your Honour, I can't imagine AWT's bleating claim to be neither the first nor the last to do something without rhyme of reason impressing as the stoutest of defences.

AWT, we're told, has had financial difficulties in recent years. Who hasn't, Anto? There are many, many people much worse off. They still don't resort to bagging but not paying for the Sauvignon and Stilton.

And, although Tesco is hardly the most pitiful of victims, what about the shopkeeper in all this?

A recent report about a local Belfast shopkeeper described how he'd taken to displaying a rogue's gallery of stills from his store's CCTV in the window in order to deter - or at least shame - shoplifters.

One thief the grocer confronted turned out to be a businessman. Yer man's excuse for stealing? He was in a hurry. (Ok, we've all felt like that at times. But you just do not do it.)

What goes through the minds of people like that and the minds of the likes of AWT? Is it some God Complex where they think they're better than 'the little people', as Leona Helmsley put it?

More to the point, is rehab really the best 'treatment' for them?

While those in the public eye can wriggle out of all sorts of scandal and wrongdoing by claiming they have some sort of never-fully-explained disorder, compunction or condition, the ordinary Joe just has to swallow what's coming to him.

One rule for them, another for the rest of us.

That always leaves a bad taste.

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