A thief caught red-handed as he made off with a visitor donation box from Sunderland Minster has been told that prison is not the right place for him.
David King, 23, had walked into the city centre church asking for money on February 2, Sunderland magistrates heard.
It is terrible to think that anyone is in such a dark place where their only option was to steal from a churchSunderland Minster spokeswoman
But when he was told to go to an advice centre in nearby Fawcett Street for help, he took matters into his own hands.
Instead of taking the staff’s advice, the thief was seen dragging the wooden donation box out of the church.
Prosecutor John McGlone said that when a member of staff arrived for work at 9am, everything was how she had left it the previous day.
“It’s quite a large church,” Mr McGlone said. “The administration office overlooks the ground floor and exits into the grounds.
“In the main congregation area is a glass corridor which can be seen from he office.”
The court heard how a man and woman knocked on the door to the office at 3.10pm, with the man stating he suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“The female asked ‘do you have any financial assistance?’
“The witness said they didn’t and asked them to attend an advice centre in Fawcett Street for help and they left.
“She then saw the male grappling with the visitor donation box, pulling it towards the front door.”
The woman called police who arrested King outside and returned the box to the church.
Mr McGlone added: “He admitted he had attended the church, asking for financial assistance, which was declined.
“He said he saw the donations box and decided to take it and he dragged it from the church.”
King, of Eglinton Street, Monkwearmouth, admitted theft and breaching a conditional discharge.
Probation officer Alan Cutting, who assessed King, said: “It is of my opinion that he needs clinical help.
“He’s clearly not well, there are various things going on. He needs to come to terms with some of the problems he does have and that he’s wrestling with at the moment.
“He wants to go to custody, but I don’t think that’s appropriate for him. We need to get to the bottom of the mental health problem that he has.
Gerry Armstrong, defending, said: “I have grave concerns that Mr King is mentally able to proceed with this case.
“This is a case that requires proper clinical help as opposed to probation intervention.
“He needs a full psychiatric assessment.
“I think what he would like to do is not in his interests.”
King was released on unconditional bail until March 29.