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Couple used baby to disguise their shoplifting
A COUPLE used their child to divert attention away from their shoplifting in a North East town, a court heard.
Laura Dougan, 26 of Hawthorn Avenue, Thornaby and Richard Fielden, 26, who gave his address in court as Sherwood Road, Thornaby, stole more than £200 worth of aftershave from Darlington’s Boots store on two separate occasions.
They appeared at Darlington Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (November 1) to plead guilty to two counts of theft and asked for a third to be taken into consideration.
Prosecuting, David Maddison described how the couple, who have four children together, would hide the stolen items in their baby’s buggy and use the child to distract people from their stealing.
They were caught out after police officers identified them from the shop’s CCTV cameras and they admitted stealing £157 worth of aftershave from Boots on September 30, and £103 worth of aftershave on October 3.
They also asked that a further theft carried out on October 8 was taken into consideration by the court.
Mr Maddison said: “Miss Dougan went on to accept that that she would use the child in the pushchair as a distraction when she was stealing from the store.”
The court heard that both Fielden and Dougan had previous convictions for theft and that Fielden was jailed for eight weeks in July after breaching a suspended sentence.
Mitigating, Liam Brison said the couple turned to theft to make money because changes to the benefits system left them out of pocket with a baby on the way.
“These items were sold for half the retail value in order to obtain some cash to prepare for the birth of their fourth child who was born three-weeks-ago,” said Mr Brison.
“As part of cutbacks, the national maternity grant which she (Miss Dougan) had previously been able to benefit from is no longer available; she needed a new pram for the baby, she had insufficient money so these thefts occurred.”
Presiding magistrate John Robinson told the couple that he “took very seriously” the fact that the couple used the baby’s pushchair to hide stolen items and that they took their children with them when they went out to steal.
After standing the case down for a report from the probation service, he ordered that both Dougan and Fielden be subject to a community order until June 30 next year.