A FAMILY tragedy led to a father-of-six stealing more than £40 worth of alcohol, a court heard.

Between February 9 and February 17, Billy Joe Wallis stole 24 cans of Gold Label lager worth £35.10 from Asda, in Darlington, and a £6 bottle of wine.

He also stole £29.62 worth of groceries on February 8.

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Magistrates in Newton Aycliffe heard how the 36-year-old, of Dickinson Street, Darlington, had recently lost his father and grandfather and turned to alcohol to cope.

Wallis pleaded guilty to six charges of shoplifting and one of failing to answer bail when he appeared at court yesterday (Tuesday, May 20).

The case was briefly stood down to allow the Probation Service to prepare a pre-sentence report on Wallis.

Brenda Robertson, of the Probation Service, told the court the defendant had an entrenched problem with alcohol misuse.

She said: “He has had no help. I think he did think he was controlling it quite well but obviously not so much now.

“He acted on impulse.

"Obviously the main thing is to reduce his alcohol consumption.

“He is the only person in his family that has been involved in the justice system so he does have a supportive family who want to reduce his offending.”

In mitigation John Clish said: “Clearly the defendant, from the first day I have seen him, has accepted he has serious issues with alcohol.”

Magistrates sentenced Wallis to a 12-month community order with 12 months of supervision and a six-month alcohol treatment programme.

He was also ordered to pay £70.72 in compensation, £85 court costs and a £60 victim surcharge.