A SHOPLIFTER had a £20,000 crown court trial over claims a stolen joint of beef reminded him of his dead grandmother.
John Casey was caught on Asda’s shop camera hiding a £12 roast in a rucksack at the Washington Galleries store last October and arrested for theft.
But the 51-year-old denied he was being dishonest and said he had moved the meat out of sight as it was giving him “flashbacks” about his grandma, who died of a blood clot when he was a child.
Casey, of Lumley Close, Oxclose, Washington, was tried over two days by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
The unemployed dad-of-eight denied the theft charge throughout.
The estimated cost per day of a trial per day is £10,000 and the case was heard before John Milford QC, one of the north’s top judges.
After just over an hour deliberation Casey, who has never shoplifted in the past but has other convictions, was found guilty.
At the end of the case Judge Milford said: “Ordinarily this is a case that would be dealt with in the lower court but he has elected trial.
“He has the right to be tried by a jury and he has been.”
The judge sentenced Casey to a conditional discharge for two years and told him: “You have caused a huge amount of unnecessary expense to be incurred by electing trial and you have got no means from which you can cover the costs of this expensive trial.
“If you come in front of me again I will be a lot less sympathetic.”
The trial started before a jury of three women and nine men mid Tuesday morning.
It concluded this afternoon.
Prosecutor Michael Hodson told the court at the start of the case: “The defendant accepts placing the joint of beef in his bag deliberately.
“He says he did so because he was experiencing a flashback to his grandmother’s traumatic death, which had been triggered by the sight of the joint of beef.
“He says it was necessary to conceal the beef in order to control the effects of the flashback.
“Such flashbacks are very disturbing says the defendant, who takes medication for depression and anxiety.
“His grandmother passed away when the defendant was a child.”
Mr Hodson told jurors: “It will be up to you to judge how the meat effected his state of mind.
“He was interviewed by the police twice.
“At no time in those interviews did he ever mention anything about his grandmother, flashbacks or having to hide the meat because it was such a horrific sight for him.”
Jurors were shown the CCTV footage of Casey putting grocery items, including bread and soup, on to the top of a rucksack which was lying down flat in his trolley.
After a few seconds out of sight of the camera he appeared again, this time
with the rucksack propped up, the shopping in the trolley and no meat in sight.
It was at this point he was stopped by store security, who alerted the police.
Casey told jurors during his evidence he had been only seven or eight when he witnessed his grandmother’ death.
He said: “After I picked the meat up and was walking around the shop it was the blood in the bag that was bringing it on.
“Every day my grandmother is with me, I remember her, but this was not like any other.
“I was re-living it, it was like I was there with her again.
“The blood in the bag was bringing it on, it was like I was there, like it was living it.
“The more I was looking at the blood, the more it was real, surreal.”
Casey said he was not trying to steal the meat and told jurors: “I would never have walked out without paying for it, that’s a dead cert.”
During his evidence Casey said he could not remember actually putting the beef in his bag.