A woman has been fined £328.75 for stealing a 75p pack of Mars bars from a local shop after her welfare benefits were stopped.
Louisa Sewell who had not eaten in several days when she took the chocolate bars pleaded guilty to theft at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 6 August. She was fined £73 for the theft, 75p in compensation to the store, £150 in court charges, £85 in prosecution costs and a £20 victim surcharge.
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Sewell who stole the cheapest food in a store because she was hungry and had no money was told by a magistrate it was not acceptable she stole ‘just for being hungry’.
Since then a crowdfunding campaign has been set up to help her pay the fine.
The Independent reports: The Reverend Stuart Campbell, who lives over 90 miles away in Bath, has set up an Indiegogo fundraising page as a “small gesture of solidarity” to help her pay the fines.
It had an original goal of £500 but has so far raised over £9,000 in less than a day.
The excess money will now go to a poverty charity in Dumfries, First Base.
He told the Independent: “I saw the story yesterday, and while you read awful benefit-sanctions stories like this every day now, it seemed an especially dreadful example.
“She was failed by society on so many levels and at so many points down the line it’s just horrific. For someone to have decided to go ahead with the prosecution is grotesque.”
According to the prosecution, the 32-year-old was spotted on CCTV putting the bars into her body warmer and leaving the store without paying at a Heron Foods store on 22nd June.
Her solicitor Susie Duncan said Ms Sewell’s benefits had been sanctioned and she had not eaten in days when she stole the cheapest food she could find from the store, according to the Kidderminster Shuttle.
Ms Duncan said: “She fully accepts this offence of theft. She said she was really hungry. She had no money.
“In her interview she said she was really hungry, had no money for food, and took the lowest value item she could find.”
But the unsympathetic chairman of magistrates, Maurice Lashford, did not accept this reasoning for the theft saying: “We do not readily accept you go into a shop to steal just for being hungry.”
Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League, told the Independent that the new compulsory court fines and charges, which were brought in by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling shortly before the May general election, were “clearly so inequitable”.
“There is no leeway. Its a fixed charge and the courts cannot vary it because of circumstance, they have to impose it”, she explained.
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