A PERSISTENT thief has narrowly avoided a return to jail after pleading guilty to stealing from a shop.

James Gibson, of Arboretum Road, pleaded guilty to theft, and admitted being in breach of a conditional discharge when he appeared at Worcester Magistrates Court on Thursday, January 11.

Prosecuting, Leslie Ashton told magistrates that Gibson, who has an extensive criminal record, had been in the Mountain Warehouse store in the city on the morning of December 9 when he removed the security tag from a £39 coat and attempted to steal it.

Miss Ashton said he was followed out of the store by a member of staff, was approached and the coat, which had damage to the zip, was recovered.

She said the 39-year-old was later arrested by police and Gibson admitted to leaving the store without paying in his interview.

Miss Ashton added the offence breached a conditional discharge Gibson was given in October, when he was sentenced for attempting to steal a £300 electric toothbrush.

Magistrates were told Gibson had been released last August following a 20 month prison sentence and that he been in court for three thefts in a relatively short period.

Defending, Mark Turnbull said Gibson has struggled for years with addiction, which a probation report highlighted as an issue with heroin and crack cocaine.

Mr Turnbull said Gibson had fallen into the canal that morning and was soaking wet, and that was the reason he attempted to steal the coat.

He added Gibson should be given credit as he was not arrested at the store, and voluntarily attended an interview at Worcester Police Station to be arrested.

Magistrates gave Gibson four weeks custody for breaching the conditional discharge, and eight for the theft - a total of 12 weeks, which was suspended for a year.

He was ordered to pay £39 compensation for the coat, and a victim surcharge of £154 - added to his outstanding balance which was being paid at a rate of £5 per week deducted from benefits.