The Birmingham man who was jailed for stealing a £1.50 can of beer

Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent


Lee Jones was jailed for two weeks in Birmingham prison last November – his fourth short sentence in 2018 – for stealing a £1.50 can of beer.

Having just served a sentence of three weeks for theft of a beer, Jones had been released on a Friday and discovered his house had been burgled, its door hanging on the hinges. Distraught, he stole another beer and found himself back in prison on the Monday.

The 29-year-old father expresses remorse over the crimes he has committed but also explains how he struggles with addiction issues and mental health problems, which are exacerbated by the repeated short jail terms.

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He explains that the help he desperately needs to confront some of the issues behind his behaviour is not available through short, sharp stints in jail.

“It’s hindered me in a lot of ways,” he says. “I was locked up four times last year, one for three months, one for two weeks, one for three weeks and another one for two weeks.

“I wasn’t able to start any courses because I wouldn’t have been able to finish the courses. I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t gain anything. All I did was see old friends.”

Jones explains that as well as struggling with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), he has been diagnosed with diabetes, which makes him nervous and anxious and affects his behaviour.

“It’s all down to mental health,” he says. “Police didn’t understand where I was coming from or who I was. I can understand from their point of view. I’ve committed a crime and they’re going to take me into custody.”

“I wasn’t in the right frame of mind,” he adds. “I was picking up the drink in the shop and drinking it in the shop, not running off with it.”

“The last couple of times, I didn’t even get a chance to be put on the proper wing,” he explained. “I was on the induction wing for the whole two weeks.”

The stints in and out of prison also disrupted his access to welfare, he says, heightening his anxiety and pushing him towards further acts of desperation.

“I don’t know where to start with universal credit. I have a new place now. I’m on the right path. I’m 29 now. Too old to be going back to jail. I’m trying to do my best.”

Jones requested to use a pseudonym for the purpose of the interview