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Jailed: Aldi thief with 116 previous offences threatened staff with needle after taking steaks

A thief who took 10 steaks from an Aldi store and threatened staff with a needle after being tackled to the ground has been jailed.

Francis Graham went into the Aldi story in Hednesford before stealing steaks and threatening staff

Francis Graham went into the supermarket in Victoria Street, Hednesford, on January 31, before loading a basket with eight rump steaks and two thick cuts before walking out through the entrance.

Cannock Magistrates' Court heard on Thursday how staff were alerted by a member of the public, and saw the 43-year-old walking along a nearby road after going out to find him.

Mrs Karen Wright, prosecuting, told the court that when collared by the Aldi employee and brought back to the store, he said he no longer had the steaks as he had given them to a friend at a local pub.

"He then attempted to run away, making his way towards the warehouse at the back of the shop," she said. After opening a fire door to get outside, another member of staff, Samuel Smith, "used force to take him to the ground".

Despite restraining him, Mrs Wright said Graham "managed to take an uncapped needle out of his coat pocket".

She continued: "He then held it and said 'get away, I've got a needle'," before one of the staff managed to grab his hand and held it until Graham let go of the needle, keeping hold of him until police arrived.

Graham later told officers he had stolen the meat as he was desperate and had no money. He was going to eat some and sell the others so he could pay for a bus fare to attend a hospital appointment. He also claimed he presented the needle but didn't threaten the staff.

Mrs Wright said that the defendant, who had admitted the theft but denied using threatening behaviour with intent to cause fear of violence, failed to attend the trial for the second offence on March 20 because he "refused to get on the bus" to court. He was found guilty in his absence.

Mitigating, Mr Paul Jenkins contested that assertion, saying his client was unwell with swollen glands and was still ill on the day of sentencing.

He told magistrates that the reason Graham contested the charge was there was "no specific threat", adding: "He was pointing out there was this needle that would make the situation far more risky for them (the staff) if they continued with any physicality."

The court also heard how Graham has been sleeping rough on the streets and had suffered life-changing injuries in a house fire that had left him as an amputee, needing skin grafts and with PTSD. Mr Jenkins said treatment was still ongoing with the defendant on medication and awaiting more operations.

"His life almost became impossible," he said, saying Graham had nowhere to go. "Hopefully, once the sentence is completed there will be greater after car arrangements set up for him."

Graham, who has 45 previous convictions for 116 offences, including one in December when he was given an 18-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months, appeared via videolink having been in custody since his arrest in January.

Magistrates handed Graham, of Eskrett Street in Hednesford, a six-week prison sentence for threatening Mr Smith with a needle and three weeks in jail for the theft to run concurrently. They also activated the 18-week prison sentence that had previously been suspended, which will run consecutively to the punishments for his crimes at Aldi.

In total he was given a 24-week prison sentence. He will serve half of that before being released on licence.

He was also ordered to pay £375 costs, compensation of £100 to Mr Smith, a £154 surcharge and £42.70 compensation to Aldi to cover the value of the stolen steaks, leaving him with a final bill of £671.70 which he must pay after his release from prison.

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