THIEF Thomas Loughton has been jailed after stealing bags of clothes intended for a charity.
An Oxfam clothing bank outside a Sunderland supermarket was raided more than a dozen times between July 17 and August 8 last year.
Donations that would have been sold on in Oxfam stores for hundreds of pounds were taken from the drop-off point.
Police investigating the thefts watched CCTV footage that showed clothes being stolen by people driving up to the bank, at Sainsbury’s in Silksworth Road and forcing it open.
Dad-of-four Loughton, 36, was identified and arrested by officers.
He initially denied the thefts when he appeared at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court and was due to stand trial, but eventually pleaded guilty to one count of theft.
Jeanette Smith, prosecuting, told the court that all the offences had a similar “modus operandi”, where the clothing banks were forced open and donations stolen.
She said: “Loughton does not just drive the car, he gets out of the car and removes items. On one occasion there is a child present in the car when they go to carry out the theft.
“They have torches with them, so it is obviously pre-meditated.”
The court heard that Oxfam estimated the clothing could have been worth hundreds of pounds to the charity.
Mrs Smith added that on July 20 last year, an Oxfam worker realised a new lock had been put on the clothing bank and the charity had to pay out £150 to have it removed by a locksmith.
A probation report about Loughton, of Prestwick Road, Pennywell said he played down his part in the stealing.
The court heard that he told a probation officer that he just been “larking about” with the clothes and had not taken any.
Chris Wilson, defending, said the father-of-four allowed his car to be used on trips to the clothing banks.
He added: “He accepts at the time he pleaded not guilty, he was not thinking straight and could not comprehend what he had done.
“He is at a loss to explain what happened to the clothing and there appears to be little or no financial motivation in relation to this offence.
“He is embarrassed, ashamed and appalled that he has been involved in taking clothes from charity banks.”
Loughton also admitted two charges of using a vehicle with no insurance and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.
Chairman of the bench John Scott sentenced Loughton to a 21-week prison term and banned him from driving for 12 months.
After the case, Superintendent Alan Veitch of Sunderland Area Command, said: “I hope this sentence sends out a message to others that stealing will not be tolerated.”
Andrew Horton, Oxfam’s trading director said: “Every day we are working to prevent such crimes happening. However, it is a real shame that people continue to target charities in this way.
“We want to assure the public that we’re taking every possible action to make sure that people can still feel confident that their donations, which are so vital to our work, reach their intended destination and help us to change lives around the world.”