‘Freegan’ who stole from supermarket bins given chance to turn his life around

Paul Barker with wife Kerry.
Paul Barker with wife Kerry.
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A self-styled ‘freegan’ who stole from supermarket bins after his benefits were suspended has been given a chance to turn his life around.

Magistrates agreed to a probation service proposal to make dad Paul David Barker subject to a year’s community order when he appeared in court yesterday.

For someone to go fishing in bins, it must be a very serious situation in which they find themselves. He had no money to buy himself anything.

Daniel Pygall, defending

Barker, 39, of Carolyne Street, Hetton, admitted two charges of theft from the town’s Tesco Metro store and one of failure to surrender to bail.

John McGlone, prosecuting, told the bench Barker had been one of two men who entered the store together on April 14.

“Both went round the shop, looking at various items, but made their way to the fridge where the meat is kept,” he said.

“Baker opened the fridge, selected various items and put them into a carrier bag opened by the other man.

“Both then left, making no effort to pay for the meat.”

Baker had been identified from CCTV footage, arrested and bailed, but had failed to return to Southwick Police station at the appointed time.

The second theft offence came to light when police were called to the rear yard of the store early on Wednesday morning.

The officer who attended found Barker hiding in a bin.

Daniel Pygall, for Barker, said the offences had been borne out of desperation: “He did not know where to go, he had no money. At the time his income was sanctioned, so he had no income whatsoever.”

“He has not taken a large amount of meat – he has taken what he felt he needed to get through the week for himself and his partner. He was not going to sell it.”

Barker accepted he had failed to answer bail, with Mr Pygall adding: “He did not even have the bus fare to get to the police station. He could not get there because he could not afford to.”

The second theft involved taking food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

“For someone to go fishing in bins, it must be a very serious situation in which they find themselves,” said Mr Pygall. “He had no money to buy himself anything.”

As well as being made subject to the community order, Barker was ordered to do 40 hours unpaid work and pay £48.60 compensation.

After the hearing, he said he was pleased magistrates had gone along with the probation proposal.

“Hopefully they will help me to find a job,” he said.

“It is not about me being unwilling, I am willing to work – it is about finding a job that lets me pay the rents, the bills and have enough left over to get some food.

“I am glad the magistrates took the probation report into account.”