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Mark Conway, who blamed Tories for his shoplifting in Hythe, avoids jail

By Paul Hooper

A Jeremy Corbyn activist who blamed his shoplifting on the Tories has avoided going straight to jail.

Mark Conway – who hopes to take up a career in acting – was caught on CCTV stealing £220 worth of booze from Waitrose in Hythe.

The 57-year-old had represented himself at his trial at Canterbury Crown Court, when he was convicted of theft.

He stole bottles of booze from Waitrose
He stole bottles of booze from Waitrose

But even before any evidence had been heard he had launched into a 15-minute diatribe in which he blamed the Tories, a chief constable, the high suicide rate, power prices, Tony Blair, the Murdoch Press, and David Cameron's and his own lack of an education.

But when he returned to be sentenced, the Liverpudlian was asked if he had any mitigation.

As he began a new diatribe, Judge Simon James stopped him mid-sentence asking him: "Have you heard the saying 'least said soonest mended?', ".

And when Conway said he had, the judge added: “Then I would stop talking if I were you!”

He then gave him a 20-week jail sentence suspended for a year, adding: "This wasn’t done as a protest because you went for the premium brands of alcohol.

The defendant claimed to be an activist for Jeremy Corbyn
The defendant claimed to be an activist for Jeremy Corbyn

"Any re-distribution of wealth was purely to line your own pockets!"

After being arrested, Conway said he had been "an activist" for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He said he had been "in the gutter" because of his drug addiction and felt "psychologically" beaten and left in the "underclass".

Conway, who now lives in Hastings, told the jury: "I am not pretending that I didn’t take that stuff but I was forced into a corner and I was forced to rebel.

"I want these election fraudsters out and put someone honest and decent in power. I want to do as much constructive s*** stirring as I possibly can and hopefully some good will come out of it.

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

"I am honest and I was forced into a corner. I am a real Christian and I just want to put a good home together and start living before I die."

Conway added that he did voluntary work at a local theatre and hoped to take up acting in the future.

Prosecutor Madeleine Wolfe had told the court that Conway and a woman – who admitted shoplifting at a hearing at Margate Magistrates' Court – were seen placing items in a trolley and paid for some of the goods at the checkout.

But before then, seven bottles of whisky, vodka, Brandy and Drambuie had been transferred into a black bag and the couple then attempted to leave the store without paying for them.

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