'Habitual' Peterborough shoplifter may avoid jail after plea to tackle drug addiction

Peterborough Crown Court
Peterborough Crown Court
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A prolific Peterborough shop lifter who stole thousands of pounds of goods from Marks and Spencer has been told she might not be jailed - after being compared to Fletcher from Porridge.

Michelle Fuller (45) - who has dozens of previous convictions for theft - took beauty products from the high street chain in Peterborough worth a total of £7,101 earlier this summer.

Fuller appeared at Peterborough Crown Court for sentencing today (Thursday) after admitting four counts of shoplifting from city centre stores.

The court was told she had 183 previous convictions against her name dating back to 1989 - including 96 for theft and other dishonesty offences, and had spent much of the last few years going in and out of prison.

But she may yet avoid another spell behind bars, after she made a passionate plea to get more help to deal with her drug problems.

Fuller even wrote a letter to the judge, reading it out over the video link from HMP Peterborough during the hearing.

In the letter she said she was 'not trying to excuse her criminal behaviour,' but said she had been battling her heroin addiction for 28 years - which had got worse since being made homeless in May and starting to take crack cocaine.

She said: "I lost my home in May and my life spiralled out of control. Crack totally took over me.

"Prison doesn't do anything to help me.With the right help I could stay drug free, which is what I want.

"Prison is no deterrent."

Recorder Martin Oldham did not pass sentence at the hearing, and adjourning the sentencing for four weeks to allow reports to be made, he said: "Drugs are a major issue in this.

"You convictions are almost like something out of sit-com Porridge and Fletcher, the character played by Ronnie Barker, who is a habitual prisoner."

Dan Taylor, prosecuting, told the court Fuller's latest batch of offences happened between June 3 and August 6 this year.

She was caught stealing alcohol worth £50 from Asda on June 3 - with most of the goods recovered.

Her first theft at M&S happened on July 11, when she took £3,101 of beauty products. she returned two days later, and this time took £4,000 of beauty products.

Her final theft happened at New Look, when she took four pairs of jeans. Other than the Asda items, no other good were recovered.

Fuller also admitted that by pleading guilty to the four shop thefts, she was in breach of an 18 month conditional discharge, imposed in February this year for handling stolen goods.

Claire Matthews, defending, said: "She suffers from severe anxiety and depression, as well as having a long standing addiction to class A drugs.

"She has been in and out of prison - she goes in to prison, gets clean engages with services inside - where she struggles is when she is released she doesn't get the help she needs, and gets back into the cycle.

"She says 'something has to give.' It is years since she was last given any community based intervention.

"We ask the court to consider if now is that 'Goldilocks' moment."

Fuller, of no fixed abode, was remanded into custody until September 20, when it is expected she will be sentenced.