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Former Thanet councillor Helen Smith jailed for shoplifting

By Paul Hooper

A former Thanet councillor was sent to prison seven months ago, but the public has been stopped from finding out by a gagging order.

Thieving Helen Smith, 54, injured a shop assistant with a car while trying to escape with more than £800 worth of goods.

But after a jury rejected her claim the items had been paid for, but after sending her to prison for five months, a judge made an order banning it being reported.

Helen Smith
Helen Smith

Today, another judge has lifted the order after the prosecution dropped its theft case against Smith’s partner, Kevin Collins, 56.

She was elected to the council for the Northwood ward after being arrested for shoplifting, assault and dangerous driving.

Smith was later convicted of all three charges, banned from driving for 14 months and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

Judge Rupert Lowe told her: “When you put yourself forward for public office and are campaigning to be elected you shouldn’t be stealing from shops. It’s hypocritical.”

The couple of St John’s Avenue, Ramsgate, were questioned by police in April 2015 after Smith was “tracked” around the Wyevale Garden Centre in Thanet by staff - because of a "previous incident".

Prosecutor Craig Evans told Canterbury Crown Court how Smith had gone with Collins and his guide dog - to the garden centre.

There, he revealed how she piled items on a trolley - from gold chocolate bunnies to a parasol and then left the store without paying.

Canterbury Crown Court. Stock picture (1482797)
Canterbury Crown Court. Stock picture (1482797)

The prosecutor said: "Staff took the view that the items weren't being carefully selected. They appeared by have been indiscriminately thrown into the trolley.

“Staff noticed that the trolley was packed so high that it towered over a wall which surrounded a restaurant.”

The jury heard that Smith was tracked for between 30 to 45 minutes before staff “got themselves into position in case Smith tried to leave the store without paying for the items”.

She left through the front entrance “without attempting to pay” and got into a Fiat in the car park.

Mr Evans said: “Fearing that items were about to be stolen, they had positioned a staff van to prevent the Fiat leaving and alerted police.”

Staff member Kerry Walker asked for a receipt for the goods in the car but one was not produced.

“At this point Mrs Smith’s partner started laughing claiming Ms Walker was making it up" - Prosecutor Craig Evans

Smith then turned on the engine and tried to reverse, hitting Ms Walker with its wing mirror.

"As she reversed, the car hit the company van and Ms Walker then bravely stood in front of the Fiat," he said.

Smith then moved forward and the car struck Ms Walker’s ankle, causing her to shout out in pain.

“At this point Mrs Smith’s partner started laughing claiming Ms Walker was making it up," the prosecutor told the court.

Collins was expected to stand trial but after a number of hearings were postponed because of illness, the prosecution abandoned the case.

Collins was not present to hear the prosecution tell the judge it was no longer in the public interest to continue with the case and a formal not guilty verdict was recorded.

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