Prolific offender David Collins, 39, punched a woman shop assistant who tried to stop him during a spree of perfume thefts from Boots stores in Gloucester and Cheltenham, a court heard recently.
The assistant, Diane Tanner, now feels fearful of attack whenever she goes to unlock a perfume cabinet in the Cheltenham store for a customer, a judge at Gloucester Crown Court was told at the hearing on June 6th.
Collins, of Monkscroft, Cheltenam, who was subject to an 18-month suspended jail term at the time of the repeated shoplifting from Boots, was sentenced to a total of 14 months jail at the latest hearing at Cirencester Courthouse.
He appeared via video link from Bristol Prison and protested to the judge, Recorder David Chidgey, that the sentence was ‘really harsh.’
Collins had pleaded guilty to four offences of theft of perfume, one of assault and one of criminal damage to a Boots display cabinet that he forced open.
Prosecutor Neil Treharne said the offences began on 14th April this year when Collins went into Boots in Cheltenham High Street, broke into a perfume cabinet and took boxes of ‘Million’ fragrance worth £146.
Ms Tanner approached and asked if he would like her to put the items through the till but he said ‘No’ and punched her in the chest while holding one of the bottles. She was ‘jolted back and felt pain in her back and neck,’ the barrister said.
“She says that physically there was no lasting effect but she has noticed now that whenever she goes to get items of perfume from the cabinets for customers she worries constantly about what the person she is dealing with may do.”
Collins was arrested soon after the offence and made no comment in interview, said Mr Treharne.
His next offences were on 1st May, again at Cheltenham Boots, when he stole twice – first at 12.30pm when he took two £40 bottles of perfume at lunchtime then again at 4.20pm when he returned and stole five bottles of ‘Million’ worth £100 each.
He was identified on CCTV footage, Mr Treharne said.
On 3rd May Collins returned to the same store and again made straight for the perfume cabinets. He broke a lock on one of the cabinets and removed two Dolce & Gabbana perfume bottles priced at £99 each.
“He then forced open another cabinet and took two bottles of Valentino perfume valued at £88 each,” Mr Treharne said.
“A security officer attempted to intercept him and he started to shout at her and left the shop, making no attempt to pay.
“On 8th May he went into Boots in Eastgate Street, Gloucester, at 2pm and walked straight up to a perfume cabinet, pulled the door open, causing £300 damage, and took two bottles of Paco Rabanne valued at £73.
“He made for the entrance and was confronted by security officers. He told them “You’d better lay off me or I’ll hit you.”
He made off but was later apprehended with the help of city street wardens.
Mr Treharne said the total value of Collins’ thefts and the damage he had done was over £1,300.
Collins had made 59 previous court appearances for 122 offences, he added.
“It seems to the Crown that he must have been stealing these perfumes to order,” Mr Treharne suggested. “He must have had a source where he could sell them on.”
Michael Anning, defending, said Collins had been stealing to pay for alcohol.
“He steals in order to drink – and when in drink he lacks the critical judgement to stop himself committing further offences. There is no sophistication to any of these offences.
“They are simplistic, they are direct and one might even say they are brazen.”
He said Collins had been doing well on the suspended sentence order he received in July 2020 but had gone off the rails after the deaths of both of his parents last year followed by him losing his home and literally living in the street.
“He has been able to dry off again during the last five weeks that he has been in custody on remand,” the barrister added.
He told the court Collins has won awards in prison for his artwork – something he was really proud of.
Collins spoke directly to the judge, saying the offences were a ‘cry for help’ and a way to get himself locked up so he could detox from alcohol.
He said he wanted to apologise to the Boots staff and he was keen to do restorative justice.
He admitted he was probably a chronic alcoholic and needed help to deal with that.
But he appealed not to be locked up, saying he now had a ‘beautiful girlfriend’ who is pregnant.
However, the judge told him that he had to activate 9 months of the suspended sentence and impose five months jail consecutively for the current offences, making a total term to serve of 14 months.
“I think that is really harsh,” protested Collins as the case closed.