Woman who shoplifted as 'crutch' for credit card debt anxiety avoids jail
Court told Julie Adair stole an 'eye-watering' amount of goods
A woman who claimed she used shoplifting as a "crutch" because she was anxious over a £20,000 credit card debt, mounted a mammoth theft spree and stole an "eye-watering" amount of goods, a court heard on Thursday.
Julie Adair (43), from Rockfield Heights in the village of Connor near Ballymena, embarked on more than a dozen shoplifting raids on shops in Ballymena and also at the Junction One shopping complex near Antrim.
Police were able to account for goods worth £4,500 and many of the stolen items were returned to the shops but there were other items - mostly perfumes and toiletries - which they could not match up to the shops they were taken from.
Those items were said to have been worth "thousands", Ballymena Magistrates Court heard on Thursday.
Adair was in the dock for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to 16 charges of theft.
That included food worth £117 from M&S in the Fairhill Centre in Ballymena; two bras worth £50 from the same store; clothing worth £1,705 from M&S; £63 worth of items from B&M in the Braidwater Retail Park, Ballymena; clothing worth £90 from Pep&Co, Junction One; items worth £105 from H&M, Fairhill; clothing and jewellery worth £571 from Peacocks, Ballymena.
Offences also included the theft of toiletries of unknown value from Boots in the Tower Centre, Ballymena; clothing and perfume worth £429 from Debenham's, Fairhill; clothing worth £110 from Sports Direct, Fairhill; a hair accessory worth £31 from Claire's; £1,067 worth of clothing from Next, Junction One and shoes worth £74 from Sainsbury's, Ballymena.
Adair also took clothing worth £96 from TK Maxx, Ballymena, and, furthermore, she took approximately 40 perfumes of unknown value from unknown persons and 100 items of toiletries of an unknown amount taken from unknown persons.
A prosecutor said Adair was caught stealing food at Marks & Spencer on May 13 this year and it was discovered she had previously stolen from the same store.
Police searched her house and found a large of amount of goods including clothing, jewellery and perfume.
She admitted stealing the items which filled 24 large police evidence bags.
The prosecutor said police were able to match goods worth £4,567 to the shops they were taken from but other items were worth "thousands".
Defence barrister Ben Thompson said his client was stopped in connection with a single shoplifting incident and when her house was searched "she holds her hands up".
He said it was Adair's second time in court for shoplifting following a case in 2013 which he said involved a "similarly eye-watering figure" and at that stage she was given a conditional discharge.
He said his client has mental health issues which followed the breakdown of her marriage and the birth of her second child when she had post-natal depression.
Mr Thompson said "the penny didn't drop" following the 2013 court and his client knew she was at risk of going to prison.
The barrister said the defendant had amassed a credit card and store card debt of between £15,000-£20,000 which she had now consolidated and is paying back at £120 a month.
He added: "Debt was what was making her anxious and this (the theft) was the crutch she turned to".
Mr Thompson said his client's anti-depressants have now been upped and Adair has sought a referral for help through a GP.
District Judge Peter King ordered her to carry out 40 hours Community Service and put her on probation for a year.
He said it was quite clear she needed assistance to "break the cycle" of offending.
Judge King said a probation report showed the defendant had significant issues in her background and he said if Adair dealt with that he had no doubt the offending would be "nipped in the bud".
However, he warned Adair if she is before a court a third time for shoplifting a suspended or actual prison term would be "inevitable".
Belfast Telegraph Digital