Thief blames his ASBO breach on ‘reading problem’

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A COMPULSIVE shoplifter banned from nearly every shop in the town centre claimed he breached his ASBO because he could not read.

Johnny Wheatley, 33, of Devonshire Road, pleaded guilty to four charges of shoplifting and four charges of breaching his ASBO when he appeared at Hastings Magistrates Court last week.

The ASBO, handed out earlier this year, prohibits him from going into most shops and commercial premises in the town centre and bans him from entering Priory Meadow.

Mark Kateley, prosecuting, said: “He is well-known to the courts.

“On August 29 he went into Tesco in Havelock Road and had a bottle of red wine under his coat. This was recovered but he still left with another bottle of red wine worth £11.

“A few hours later he went into Sainsbury’s in the town centre and stole a bottle of wine worth £2.29.

“On August 31 he went back there and stole an identical bottle and later tried to walk out of Poundstretcher carrying a microwave,

“When interviewed by police he said he did not fully understand the banning notice.

“He has a record of 54 offences of stealing from shops, largely fuelled by drugs.

“He tested positive for cocaine when he was arrested.”

Aiden Harvey, defending, said: “He says heroin is no longer a problem but seems to have swapped one addiction for another as he has started to drink.

“He has voluntarily made an appointment with Action For Change.

“He was served the banning notice in the street by a police officer and has problems reading. No-one explained to him what shops he was banned from.

“He knew not to go to Priory Meadow but did not realise the ban included shops on the periphery.”

Magistrates deferred sentence for four weeks to allow him to get help for his alcohol addiction and warned him that he faced prison if he failed to attend the Action for Change sessions.