A HOSTEL boss pleaded for understanding from magistrates after a reformed drug addict, who now helps homeless people, stole clothes from a shop during "a blip" in her recovery.

Kerry Marnell appeared in the Worcester News in December as she had turned her life around while living at St Paul’s Hostel in Tallow Hill. She talked of breaking free from a cycle of drug addiction, shoplifting, prison and sleeping rough on the streets, and was inspiring others at the hostel by giving talks.

However, on Thursday she was at Worcester Magistrates Court where she admitted stealing clothes from the city’s New Look branch.

The court heard that Marnell had previously committed more than 98 offences.

Nichola Ritchie, prosecuting, said the 35-year-old went into New Look on April 25 and was watched as she was known to staff from her previous thefts.

“She left the store when she realised she was being watched,” Miss Ritchie said.

“Staff reviewed CCTV, and she was seen selecting four items of clothes, to the value of £70, and concealing them, then leaving without offering payment.”

Officers later arrested Marnell, with the clothes returned to the store to be resold.

Barry Newton, defending, told magistrates Marnell had made “remarkable progress” in turning her life around.

Mr Newton explained that Marnell had been contacted out of the blue by someone from her past, and this led to traumatic memories resurfacing and her relapse.

“Her last offence was December 2017 – there has been no offending since,” he said.

Mr Newton said the good progress had even seen the mum-of-one give talks to justice officials, and one of the magistrates said she had heard one of Marnell's speeches.

Jonathan Sutton, St Paul’s Hostel’s chief executive, then addressed the magistrates, telling them he had only spoken in court for residents three times in six years but felt compelled to be there for Marnell.

“I do so today because I bring insight on Kerry,” he said. “She lives in our community, we know her well. She knows what she did was wrong. The steps she has made have been tremendous. She gives talks to groups of 50 on behalf of the hostel. In context of the progress she has made, I ask you to take into account what we have said.”

Sentencing Marnell, Fiona James, chairman of the magistrates bench, said: “We have listened to everything said on your behalf. This was just a blip after two years of very good progress.”

Marnell was given a conditional discharge, and ordered to pay costs of £135, and a victim surcharge of £20.

Following the hearing, Mr Sutton told the Worcester News: “What Kerry did was wrong.

“Like many addictions, Kerry’s masks the shame she feels from the abuse she received as a child, so it is important to remember that the way to change someone's behaviour resulting from addiction is not more shame and more punishment, but encouraging the person to reconnect and affirming the good in them. The court were humane because they understand recovery from a compulsive addiction takes time and they saw the huge steps she has taken. Kerry feels humbled but we all make mistakes. St Paul’s will continue to help her recovery.”