Hanley Wetherspoons drinker swiped £80 from purse as woman nipped to the loo

Thief Paul Johnson stole £80 from a woman's purse when she asked him to look after her bag in Wetherspoons as she nipped to the toilet. The 60-year-old had been drinking with his victim and others in the Hanley city centre pub on November 16.

When the others left the woman asked the defendant to watch her handbag. But when she returned Johnson left the pub and she discovered £80 was missing.

Prosecutor Lee Stone told North Staffordshire Justice Centre the victim alerted staff. Mr Stone said: "They watched the CCTV which showed the defendant took the purse from the handbag and took the money."

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In his police interview Johnson said he had fallen on hard times and was struggling with his bills. He decided to take the money so he could use it for day-to-day activity. He apologised for his behaviour.

Johnson, of Broom Street, Hanley, pleaded guilty to theft from the person of another.

Paige Morgan, mitigating, said the woman was an 'acquaintance'. Miss Morgan said: "It is not a breach of trust. She was going to the toilet. She said, 'Will you watch my bag'? and left. He did not really answer. They had no real relationship.

"He says it was a silly mistake he made while drunk. He had fallen on hard times. He was struggling financially as he has £273 a month to live off.

"There was no pre-planning. He saw the opportunity and took it."

Deputy District Judge Andrew Teate said: "She asked you when she went to the toilet to look after her bag. You did not. You went in her bag, looked through her purse and removed £80.

"I accept it was opportunistic. The reason she left you in control was she thought you were a trustworthy individual. Clearly she was wrong."

The judge fined Johnson £120 and ordered him to pay £80 compensation and £85 costs.

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