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Home Kent News Article
by Paul Hooper
Champagne shoplifter Ben Laws was not nicked by just any security guards... they were Marks and Spencer guards!
Months after stealing two bottles of bubbly and a bottle of whiskey, the self-employed accountant returned to the Canterbury store.
And a shop security official recognised Laws as the man who had walked off with the drink SEVEN months earlier.
Laws, 29, of Grosvenor Place, Margate, thought he had escaped detection when he picked up the alcohol and left the Marks and Spencer store without paying in January.
But an eagle-eyed security man at the High Street chain, which ran a popular ad campaign saying 'this isn't just food, it's M&S food' - recognised the shoplifter when he returned in September – and collared him.
Now a judge at Canterbury Crown Court has branded Laws's behaviour as "smacking of arrogance".
Judge Adele Williams heard that after his arrest it was discovered the accountant was also in breach of a sexual offences prevention order, which banned him from possessing a mobile phone capable of accessing the internet.
It was the second time he had been caught with a mobile phone which breached the restriction imposed for downloading 100 sex abuse images of children.
Rupert Gregory, defending, said the first phone had been a Christmas gift from Laws's girlfriend that he used for work.
When that was confiscated by police, Laws bought another second-hand device – which he was using in the store when he was spotted by guards.
Laws pleaded guilty to breaching the order and shoplifting – which put him at risk of a 12-month suspended jail sentence being activated.
Mr Gregory said Laws had gone into the shop to buy drink for a party, but then discovered he had not brought his bank debit card - so he walked out without paying.
"It was simply opportunistic, when he realised he didn't have his debit card he saw an opportunity to leave without paying," he added.
After his arrest, Laws repaid Marks and Spencer and handed over another £86 to pay its costs.
Judge Williams deferred sentence until February so Laws could complete a course dealing with his sexual offences.
But she told him: "You have come as close as possible to going straight to prison. Court orders have to be obeyed.
"One slip, one more breach between now and February and you will lose all sympathy of the court and you will receive a sentence of imprisonment."
She ordered the accountant to pay £100 costs of the hearing.
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