North Walsham shoplifter spared jail

A mother who stole thousands of pounds worth of clothes from shops and took them back for a refund to pay for a new life away from her cheating partner has been spared jail.

A motheR who stole thousands of pounds worth of clothes from shops and took them back for a refund to pay for a new life away from her cheating partner has been spared jail.

Marie Howard, 38, of Acorn Road, North Walsham, was given a community order with 200 hours of unpaid work by Recorder Karen Walden-Smith, who said she recognised that Howard was trying to do what she thought was the best thing for her two teenage children.

However, the Norwich Crown Court judge described the 10 counts of fraud, two counts of theft and one count of going equipped for theft that Howard had admitted to, as well the 64 similar offences she had asked to be taken into account, as "irresponsible and selfish behaviour".

She added: "I find it difficult to understand how a mother wanting to take care of her children should think this


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is an appropriate way to behave."

The cleaner was arrested in October and admitted scamming �3,985 from Marks and Spencer in Rampant Horse Street, �1,313 from John Lewis in All Saints Green and �100 from Next in the Haymarket. She also stole clothing worth �290 from Marks and Spencer and �79 from John Lewis.

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Prosecuting, Douglas Mackay said: "She said that she had been planning to leave her husband and needed to save money to start a new life with her children."

Defending, Guy Ayers, said he hoped that the offence would not fall into the custodial bracket, adding: "If you are working hard and running a home with the family, then even unpaid work is an onerous punishment. The money is being repaid."

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