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Fenland pair stole £2,000 of alcohol to fund drug habits

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Two friends from Wisbech and March have admitted to a mammoth high-value shoplifting spree around to fund their drug habits.

However, despite the total value being more than £2,000 the pair were made to pay back just £204.50 each because some shops involved had not completed compensation forms, a court heard.

Karl Hutchings, 44, and Desmond Stephens, 43, targeted the Dersingham branch of Co-op eight times (total value £1,461) and the Terrington St Clement branch four times (over £300).

Pair stole alcohol worth nearly £300 from Majestic Wine Warehouse. Photo: Google.
Pair stole alcohol worth nearly £300 from Majestic Wine Warehouse. Photo: Google.

They also stole 12 bottles of alcohol (£298.47), from Majestic Wine Warehouse in King's Lynn, and nine bottles of Neptune rum (£269.91) from Spar in Dersingham.

Appearing before King’s Lynn magistrates together on Thursday, Hutchings pleaded guilty to 14 offences and Stephens admitted to 13 between September 20, 2020 and January 17, 2022.

Prosecutor Jacqui Dankyi said the only compensation details which the CPS had received totalled £408.95, to be split between the two defendants.

Alison Muir, mitigating for Hutchings, of The Hill, Christchurch, Wisbech, said family members had helped him to kick a class A drug habit but he had relapsed.

“Unfortunately he started to take drugs again. These items were taken to fund that habit,” she added.

The court was told he had been working with drug and alcohol support provider CGL for more than two years and was getting support from Chatterton House for mental health problems.

Charlotte Winchester, for Stephens, of Grounds Avenue, March, said her client had “limited recollection” of the thefts but had admitted the offences after being shown CCTV stills.

She added: “The first offence was committed in September 2020 and, at that time, he was struggling to cope.

“It was during Covid times and restrictions. His drug use increased and his interaction with drug workers went down because it had to be via Zoom.

“He speaks highly of his worker at CGL. He wants support – he doesn’t want to continue on this pattern of offending.”

As well as the compensation, each of the defendants was given an 18-month community order to include a drug rehabilitation requirement and 20 activity days with Probation officers.

They were also ordered to each pay £50 costs and £95 victim surcharge.

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