Thief jailed after theft of charity boxes for war veterans and cancer victims

Noel Clarke was jailed at Ipswich Crown Court for stealing charity boxes 

Noel Clarke was jailed at Ipswich Crown Court for stealing charity boxes - Credit: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

An unscrupulous criminal with more than 230 previous convictions who stole eight charity boxes during a string of thefts in Ipswich and Woodbridge has been jailed for 26 months.

Sentencing 51-year-old Noel Clarke, Judge Emma Peters described the thefts of the collection boxes as “utterly deplorable” and accused him of having “no moral compass.”

Ipswich Crown Court heard that Clarke had mainly targeted Co-op stores and with the help of a woman friend had distracted staff by asking to buy cigarettes before cutting the string attaching the charity boxes to the counter and making off with them hidden under his coat.

Six of the stolen charity boxes were collecting money for the Royal British Legion, one was for St Elizabeth Hospice and the other was for Macmillan Cancer Care.

Judge Peters jailed Clarke for 18 months for the thefts but added on an extra six months to run consecutively after hearing he had tried to steal a further RBL charity box on Armistice Day which she said was “even more deplorable”.

She said although it was claimed that Clarke had committed the thefts out of desperation, the items he had stolen in addition to the charity boxes had been alcohol and cigarettes and not food, which she would have expected if he had indeed been desperate.

Simon Connolly, prosecuting, said that on November 11 this year Clarke visited Co-op Funeral Services in Nacton Road, Ipswich, and tried to steal a RBL charity box but was thwarted by a member of staff who snatched it away from him.

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The court heard that in addition to stealing charity boxes Clarke had also stolen cigarettes, alcohol and tobacco.

The thefts had taken place during a two-week period between October 26 and November 10 and involved the Old Barrack Road Co-op store in Woodbridge and the following Co-op stores in Ipswich: Ravenswood, Hines Road, Clapgate Lane, Vernon Street, Selkirk Road, Garrick Way, Colchester Road and Laburnum Close.

Clarke, of Bennington Road, Ipswich, pleaded guilty to 12 offences of shoplifting, one offence of attempted theft, making off without paying a taxi fare and breach of a suspended prison sentence.

In addition to being jailed for two years for the thefts and attempted theft, he was sentenced to eight weeks to run consecutively for breaching the suspended sentence.

Kelly Fernandez-Lee, for Clarke, said her client had been left disabled after being stabbed in the neck.

He had been homeless and had a drug problem and had committed the offences out of “sheer desperation”

She said Clarke had expressed “complete and utter remorse” for the offences which she accepted were “unattractive.”

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