A ‘professional shoplifter’ who threatened staff in two Leamington supermarkets with a Stanley knife when they tried to stop him leaving with packs of meat has been jailed.
Barry Miller, (35), of no fixed address, had only been out of prison for four days, with nothing to eat and nowhere to live, when he carried out the thefts at the Aldi and Co-op stores, a judge has heard.
Miller was jailed for 27 months after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to robbery, theft and two charges of possessing a bladed article in a public place.
Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said that on the afternoon of July 6, Miller went into the Aldi supermarket in Queensway, Leamington, where he was seen trying to leave through the entrance door rather than the exit.
He had a basket with him which contained £37 worth of meat – and as a member of staff went to challenge him, he turned and brandished a Stanley knife, saying: “What’s your problem?”
The staff member backed off, and Miller left with the meat.
The following morning he went to the Co-op in Clemens Street where the assistant manager, watching him on the CCTV system, saw him helping himself to meat worth £42 and leaving.
When the assistant manager, who recognised him from his part-time role as a special constable, went to try to apprehend him as he got outside, Miller again produced the Stanley knife and ordered him to get out of his way.
With the help of CCTV cameras in the area, the police tracked Miller to nearby flats where he was arrested.
Deputy Judge Michael Stokes QC observed that Miller, who had 70 previous convictions for theft and other offences of dishonesty, was ‘a professional shoplifter.’
Ian Speed, defending, said: “He accepts that not only should he not have been carrying that Stanley knife, he should not have produced it in that way.
“He had been released from prison four days earlier, having served an eight-week sentence for theft, and had no money and no accommodation.
“Four days of sleeping rough, and no food, he stole out of necessity.”
Mr Speed said that, unusually for such shoplifting offences, Miller was not doing it to feed any form of addiction.
“He’s a health freak, and basically, he steals to feed himself. He doesn’t go out to steal to sell items to fund a drug addiction.”
Conceding that Miller was facing a prison sentence of some length, Mr Speed added: “He was doomed to fail, because every shopkeeper in this area recognises him.”
Jailing Miller, Judge Stokes told him: “On two occasions you went into stores armed with a Stanley knife.
I accept you didn’t use it to commit your thefts, but when you were confronted on the first occasion, you produced the weapon and threatened the person with it.
“On the second occasion you managed to get virtually out of the store with the meat, and you produced the knife in order to ensure he could not take it from you.
“You have an appalling record of stealing from shops, and this is your fourth conviction for that this year.”
Miller had originally faced two charges of robbery, but the Co-op offence was amended to theft following legal discussions between the judge and the barristers.
The distinction was that the theft had been completed by the time he threatened the assistant manager, as opposed to the Aldi incident when it was still in progress when he threated the staff member.