Tue, 04 Dec 2018
A RECOVERING heroin addict stole from a Newbury department store because of failures in the Universal Credit rollout, a court heard.
Neil Anthony Masters made off with the £450 Hugo Boss leather jacket from the Camp Hopson department store in Northbrook Street, Reading magistrates heard on Thursday.
It was never recovered.
The 58-year-old, who lives at Newtown Road, Newbury, admitted committing the offence on August 31.
He also has 37 previous convictions for theft, said Andy Callender, prosecuting.
Mike Davis, defending, told magistrates: “You’ll be aware that the rollout of Universal Credit hasn’t been a universal success.
“Mr Masters was one of those caught up in it.
“He stole the jacket out of desperation because his benefits weren’t sorted out.”
A probation officer told the court that Mr Masters had been fully compliant with a community order imposed for a prior offence, that he had attended every appointment, that he was off heroin and was complying with a replacement drug regime.
She pointed out that, until June this year, his last offence was committed 15 years ago.
He had relapsed briefly into heroin abuse because of the breakdown of a relationship, the court heard.
Mr Davis said his client wanted to address the court and Mr Masters told magistrates: “I don’t take these proceedings lightly – I’m really sorry for what I’ve done.
“I’m now clean and have passed every drug test.
“I stole the jacket out of desperation because my Universal Credit wasn’t sorted out.
“I really am trying hard.”
Magistrates said they were impressed by the progress Mr Masters was making in rebuilding his life.
They said the current community order could continue and made a compensation order in favour of Camp Hopson for £224.50 – around half the jacket’s value.
No order for costs was made because of Mr Master’s lack of means.