A woman caught stealing underwear was told to carry on shopping after the goods were returned.
Sonia Neil was stopped in the store, interviewed by police, and released all within 25 minutes, South Northumbria Magistrates’ Court heard.
“The way she was dealt with demonstrates the enormous changes in the way in which these offences are now dealt with,” said Gerald Armstrong, defending.
“The offence happened at about 12.10pm at Marks and Spencer in the centre of Sunderland.
“She was stopped, the goods taken off her, and she was taken to a back room of the shop.
“Police interviewed her there using a bodycam.
“The interview started at 12.24pm and lasted three minutes, two of which would have been taken up with explaining the police caution.
“After that she was told she could carry on shopping because the charge would be made by postal requisition.
“It would take longer to get a haircut.”
Neil, 51, of Canon Cockin Street, Hendon, admitted theft on August 13.
“There were no aggravating features about the offence,” said Mr Armstrong. “She was polite and compliant when stopped, admitted the offending as soon as she was asked, and the goods were recovered.
“Her problem over the years has been drugs. There have been long periods when she has been all but offence free, but the drug usage has been rearing its head again recently.
“Having proved she can keep clear of drugs for extended periods, she would welcome further treatment to control her addiction.”
Neil was sentenced to a community order of 12 months, including a drug rehabilitation requirment of six months, 25 days of rehabilitation activity, and she was ordered to pay £170 costs.