Man branded 'despicable' after burglary at Sunderland charity shop during lockdown

A man has been jailed for what a judge branded a “despicable” burglary and ransacking of a Sunderland city centre charity shop closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, 4th May 2020, 11:44 am
Updated Monday, 4th May 2020, 12:33 pm
The BHF shop in Blandford Street

Michael Gage, 35, attempted to take £450 of goods from British Heart Foundation's Blandford Street store – and caused £1,000 of damage in the process, a court heard.

Gage, who had only just been released from a jail term, had mixed alcohol with unidentified blue-coloured drugs he had found before the burglary, which happened between March 19 and April 7.

He was caught due to leaving blood at the scene, South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court was told.

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District Judge Kathryn Meek jailed him for six months, telling him: “This is a despicable offence.

“This is a charitable organisation that has a charity shop in the city you live in, giving charitable support to members of your community.

“It has had to close and is possibly on a knife edge if it can survive, and what you choose to do is burgle it when you’re under the influence of drugs.

“I’ve no doubt whatsoever that it has to be a custodial sentence.

“There’s no benefit to me in suspending your sentence.”

Prosecutor Paul Doney said: “There was quite a ransacking. They’ve found items at the scene when they’ve attended.

“There was a substantial amount of damage to the store, estimated at £1,000. Some items were recovered to the value of £450.”

Heather Bolton, defending, said Gage, of no fixed abode, had not offended since 2006 but had resumed his criminality after his mother’s death in 2018 due to difficulties coping with his bereavement.

She said: “Mr Gage says he had left his trainers there and taken other trainers. He says that all he took was a pair of trainers.

“He has had some mental health problems due to his mother’s death. He’s not someone who is heavily convicted.

“He had consumed some alcohol and there were blue tablets lying on the floor.

“He says he bagged-up some items but that something clicked, and he left them. There was some blood found.”

Gage was also given a four-week jail term to run concurrently for breaching a conditional discharge, imposed in August for theft.

He pleaded guilty to burglary and to breaching the conditional discharge.

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