A mum who stole food for her children after saying her tax credits stopped has been told by a judge theft is not the answer and she should have tried to obtain help from a charity, a foodbank or secured a crisis loan.
District Judge Nigel Broderick was speaking at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday where Paula Elizabeth Power (41), of Clonavon Road, Ballymena, was put on Probation for a year and ordered to pay £15.70 to B&M Bargains.
The defendant was in court for sentencing on a theft charge.
It was heard the theft happened in February this year when Power was seen acting suspiciously in a store before leaving with a “bulging bag” without offering payment.
She told police she took the items because her tax credits had stopped.
Defence solicitor Emma McCann said the defendant’s children were the most important thing in her life and the stolen items were food for them.
Judge Broderick said it was a “sad state of affairs when people are stealing food” and he asked if the defendant could survive on benefits.
Ms McCann said Power had been heavily reliant on the St Vincent de Paul charity.
The judge asked if there were food banks in Ballymena and if the defendant could have gone there.
Ms McCann said Power’s benefits have now “regularised”.
Judge Broderick said: “I recognise that people can struggle financially but theft is not the answer”.
He said people could approach charities or food banks or get crisis loans.