Court case branded a ‘waste of money’

Co-operative store at The Archery Seaside Eastbourne. January 8th 2013 E02229P
Co-operative store at The Archery Seaside Eastbourne. January 8th 2013 E02229P

A frustrated magistrate who sentenced a prolific shoplifter this week said his appearance in court was a ‘waste of public money’.

Chair of the bench Peter Gates said Thomas O’Donnell, who stole cider on three consecutive days from the same store, needed help and said he hoped social services would get involved. The defendant, who is an alcoholic and suffers from amnesia, has committed a string of similar offences.

Magistrates at Eastbourne heard the 63-year-old went into Co-op in Seaside and stole cider each time. He committed the offences on January 5, 6 and 7. On two occasions O’Donnell said he only had a small amount of change on him.

The Sumach Close resident pleaded guilty to three counts of theft.

Magdalena Biglou, defending, said her client had suffered from head injuries years ago and that it had previously been hoped he could receive help from Headway. This is a charity supporting people with brain injuries and their families but Miss Biglou said funding was not available.

She added, “I ask you to give him credit for his early guilty plea. The courts have tried to give him help. The previous district judge summoned social services and Headway offered him a place but funding was refused.

“He suffers from amnesia and doesn’t remember what he does. The community psychiatric nurse is in talks with social services, she feels that he is deteriorating. You can put him in custody but I don’t think it will serve any purpose. Until social services or the people that need to help him this will keep happening.”

O’Donnell was fined £50 for each offence but this was deemed served by the time he had spent in custody. Chair of the bench Mr Gates said, “This man is ill. He comes to court and it’s a waste of everyone’s time. This is a pointless waste of public money, a waste of court time and his time. It’s sad. I hope for goodness’ sake they [social services] can do something for the poor man this time.”