Gambling habit led to thefts

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A man with a string of convictions for stealing from machines on forecourts targeted a garage in Newmarket.

Christopher Smith, 39, stole £448 in coins from a machine at the BP Hyperion Garage in Bury Road which motorists used to pump up their tyres.

On Monday, Ipswich Crown Court was told that Smith was not caught until 17 months after the offence because, in the meantime, he had been serving a prison sentence for a similar crime in another part of the country.

Prosecuting, Robert Sadd told the court that Smith was tracked down when his fingerprint was found on part of the machine which had been forced open at Newmarket on April 23 last year.

The court heard that back in January 2011, Smith was given a suspended prison sentence at Swansea Crown Court for 15 similar offences and in April last year had been jailed for 20 months by magistrates in Northampton after admitting yet more thefts from garage forecourt compressed air and vacuum machines.

While some had been forced open, it was suspected that Smith was in possession of a key to open others, said Mr Sadd.

Mitigating, Alice Carver said Smith had, until the age of 34, led a “blameless life.”

But then he had been introduced to gambling which saw him begin to steal to raise money to support his habit.

Smith, who the court was told suffered from ill health and relied on benefits, lived with his mother in Crabmill Lane in Coventry and helped to look after her.

Miss Carver told the court the defendant had now severed links with those who encouraged him to gamble.

Sentencing him, Judge Rupert Overbury told Smith, who had pleaded guilty to an offence of theft, that, because of his previous record, the case clearly crossed the custody threshold.

However, said Judge Overbury, taking into account all the circumstances, the sentence of three months’ imprisonment would be suspended for 12 months.

Inaddition, Smith would be subject to a 6pm to 6am curfew at his home address for 28 days.

Judge Overbury warned Smith: “If you offend again within the next 12 months it is very likely that the prison sentence will be activated.”




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