A PROLIFIC thief has been jailed after she stole elderly women’s handbags to feed her drug habit.
Joanne Roberts, 48, pleaded guilty at Chester Crown Court yesterday to two counts of theft from a person and two counts of theft by shoplifting.
The court heard Roberts, of Nevin Road, Blacon, had been convicted of 204 offences for theft and dishonesty matters, with the first offence as far back in 1977.
In 2009 she was made the subject of an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) which banned her from every shop in Denbighshire for 10 years because of her prolific offending. In 2005 she received a similar 10 year ban from every shop in the centre of Chester.
The court was told Roberts stole handbags belonging to two women in their seventies and took goods worth more than £300 in shops across Cheshire with her daughter, Michaela Whelan, 19.
Prosecuting, Caroline Harris, said the latest spate of thefts started on October 17 when Roberts stole the handbag of a 70 year old woman containing £200 in a Northwich supermarket which the victim had placed on her trolley.
Miss Harris said the remaining three offences all took place on the same day, with Roberts stealing another handbag placed in a trolley containing £115 and three betting slips on November 5, from a 76 year old woman with serious health problems in a Frodsham supermarket.
Then Roberts stole two electric razors and a bag from Boots in Frodsham worth £219, before making her way to Morrison’s in Chester, filling a trolley full of goods worth £115 and attempting to leave without paying.
Miss Harris said police searched Roberts and Whelan and arrested them in Morrison’s before conducting a search of their home, recovering all of the goods stolen, as well as £350 in cash.
Whelan was sentenced by Magistrates on November 6 to an 18-month supervision order, with 80 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge.
Roberts was sent to Crown Court for sentencing because of her extensive previous convictions.
Simon Parry, defending Roberts, said she had a drug problem which coupled with her illiteracy meant she found it “embarrassing” when applying for jobs and that she felt genuine remorse for her actions.
Mr Parry also pointed out Roberts pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
Sentencing, Judge Elgan Edwards, the Recorder of Chester, said if Roberts was found guilty he would have gone beyond the sentencing guidelines to impose a severe sentence but because she pleaded guilty he would reduce any sentence to the maximum the sentencing guidelines suggested.
Judge Edwards also said he found difficult to believe Roberts felt actual remorse because of her record of stealing handbags from vulnerable people in supermarkets.
Judge Edwards said: “Joanne Roberts you set an appalling example for your daughter. As far as you are concerned you targeted a 70 year old lady and another, even more vulnerable 78 year old lady and stole from them and then stole from two shops.
“Prison is inevitable in your case. If you do this again it will be much longer.”
Roberts was sentenced to a total of 12 months in prison - two six month sentences to run consecutively for theft from a person and two three month sentences for theft from a shop to run concurrently.
She was also ordered to pay £350 compensation to her victims and an £80 victim surcharge.