Shop theft ‘menace’ with ‘extraordinary’ record of 246 offences jailed again

PUBLISHED: 13:30 22 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:20 22 June 2019

Lee McLaughlin has begun another stretch behind bars following his most recent spate of thefts from shops  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Lee McLaughlin has begun another stretch behind bars following his most recent spate of thefts from shops Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Suffolk Constabulary

One of Suffolk’s most prolific shoplifters has returned to jail for carrying out another “campaign” of theft and threatening staff who dared intervene.

Lee McLaughlin, 38, had clocked up 50 convictions for 246 offences when he appeared on remand at Ipswich Crown Court last week to be sentenced for another 26 thefts over a period of four months.

McLaughlin stole meat, cheese, alcohol and electrical goods worth more than £2,800 to feed his two-decade-long drug addiction.

He mainly targeted branches of the Co-op, but also stole from Tesco and Sainsbury's stores around Ipswich - and even swiped dog leads from Pets at Home.

On April 16, he assaulted a member of staff and threatened to stab anyone else who intervened.

McLaughlin, of no fixed address, was described as hostile and intimidating to employees of the East of England Co-op, where anti-social behaviour support officer, Scott Walker, said civil banning orders had done nothing to prevent him returning to steal.

McLaughlin was released from jail on licence in November, but was recalled the following month, after attending just one probation appointment. When released in January, he again failed to comply with terms and went on to commit his latest spate of thefts.

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Stephen Dyble, mitigating, called it "extraordinary" that McLaughlin's record included 195 offences for dishonesty dating back to when he was 14.

He said McLaughlin accepted being a menace, adding: "What underlines his offending is an addiction to class A drugs, but not once has anything been tried to assist him to give up.

"I suspect the reason is that he has shown no inclination to receive it.

"I paint a rather bleak picture, but, having been remanded in custody, for the first time in 20 years, he is entirely drug free. He has, by design, weaned himself of narcotics and not availed himself of their ready supply in prison.

"If nothing is done to embrace this positive desire to change, there is every reason to believe he will re-offend when able to do so."

Judge John Devaux said McLaughlin had failed to engage with any services available to treat his abuse of class A drugs.

For what he called a "campaign of theft", Judge Devaux sentenced McLaughlin to 24 months in jail.

He will be banned from all East of England Co-op stores for three years and required to engage with rehab services when released.

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