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Man avoids jail after failing to pay for food and drinks at Bartella's and The George Inn in Meopham and stealing from Tescos

A thief failed to pay at a pub and a restaurant before assaulting the police officer who arrested him.

James Hutton visited two establishments in Meopham with his girlfriend Prianna Cheema and made off without paying.

James Hutton admitted five offences when he appeared in court. Picture: Sussex Police
James Hutton admitted five offences when he appeared in court. Picture: Sussex Police

The pair went into Bartella's restaurant and ordered lunch and drinks which cost £53.08 but did not pay the bill after his debit card, which he had put behind the bar, was declined.

They then did the same thing at The George Inn where they ordered £138 worth of drinks.

At both venues, the pair promised to go to a cash-point and return with the money but failed to do so.

Later they visited the Tesco Express store in the village where they filled up several baskets with food and drink to the value of £80 and left the store without paying.

The couple were arrested a few days later over an unrelated matter at an address in Medway, but when police went to the home Hutton became aggressive, threatened and assaulted a police officer and used homophobic slurs against him.

Bartellas restaurant in Wrotham Road, Meopham
Bartellas restaurant in Wrotham Road, Meopham

Hutton, 33, formerly from Rainham, but now of London Road, Mitcham, was charged with five offences including two counts of making off without payment and one count of shoplifting and assault on an emergency worker and threatening behaviour. He pleaded guilty to all the offences when he appeared in court in July.

He returned to Maidstone Magistrates’ Court on August 1 to be sentenced.

The court heard, Cheema had already admitted her guilt in relation to making off from the establishments, but had not been sentenced yet.

The court also heard she is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for stabbing Hutton in the leg and it was not disclosed when she would be sentenced over the other charges.

Debbie Jones, prosecuting, told magistrates the incidents happened on September 24 and when police went to an address a few days later in Berengrave Lane, Rainham, to arrest them over an unrelated matter, Hutton assaulted the officers.

The George Inn pub in Meopham
The George Inn pub in Meopham

Ms Jones added: “On September 24, he and another went to Bartella's restaurant and The George Inn but their card was declined and they said they would go to a cashpoint and return with the cash.

“But, despite a phone call from the restaurant, he told the manager that Tesco was closed and he couldn’t get the money out.

“On September 27, as Hutton was being put in handcuffs he backed away and pulled his arm away and was resisting and shouting and then pushed the officer and struck him in the stomach.

“Another officer had to assist and used pava spray (pepper spray) to get him under control and he was then arrested and put in a police van. He started intimidating the officer and called him homophobic names.

“He has a lengthy record and the officer suffered only a slight injury.”

Hutton appeared at Maidstone Magistrates Court. Stock picture
Hutton appeared at Maidstone Magistrates Court. Stock picture

Karley Styles, defending, said her client, who is on Universal Credit, suffers from ADHD and uses cocaine, and when he is with his girlfriend his drinking escalates.

Magistrates decided to place Hutton on an 18-month community order which will see him attend 15 rehabilitation sessions with probation.

They also ordered him to complete drug and alcohol treatment requirements for nine months and pay the police officer £100 compensation as well as pay back the two establishments and Tescos for the food and booze he had that day.

Hutton was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £114.

Owner of Bartellas, Ian Eldridge, praised one of the officers who “was really good” at helping with the case but questioned why it had taken so long for the pair to be brought to justice.

He said: "I am not pleased. I think it is a complete waste of time. They should have just paid there and then.

"It has taken nearly a year to bring this to the case. Why has it taken so long? It is just a joke."

Despite this, he praised one of the PCs on the case who "was really good" in helping.

He added the couple would not be welcome back to the restaurant.

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