A BRAZEN shoplifter who filled a trolley with alcohol and wandered out the front door without paying has been sentenced at court.

Richard Pope visited an Asda supermarket in Spennymoor twice in one day to steal alcohol and snacks totalling more than £438.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court heard how the 40-year-old returned again around a week later to commit the same crime, and had previously asked a staff member to help him pick out clothes, before walking out again without paying.

On his third attempt he was stopped by a security guard who grabbed his trolley, but CCTV shows Pope immediately taking his hands off it and walking off.

Laura Lax, prosecuting, said: "At 15.58 on Thursday, June 20 the defendant selected alcoholic goods then went to the snack aisle and picked three bags of crisps before leaving the store without making any attempt to pay.

"He attended again later the same day at 9.30pm, filled a trolley with clothing, even getting a member of staff to help him pick out some items before leaving the shop again.

"On June 28 he picked up a trolley again, filled it with alcohol and groceries, walked past the till towards the door, but this time was challenged by a member of staff.

"Police were called and the attending officer smelled alcohol on Mr Pope. A car key was subsequently found in his back pocket and he told the officer he had drove to the shop. He was then cautioned and arrested."

Pope, of Tennyson Road, Chilton, pleaded guilty to three counts of theft from a shop, driving a vehicle whilst above the legal drink-drive limit and driving whilst disqualified.

Andrew Clinton, on behalf of Pope, said he had suffered with his mental health in the past but was in a much better place now.

Chair of the bench, Kevin Radford, said: "This is your third excess alcohol conviction and when you consider your last disqualification then this passes the custody threshold.

"However we are going to suspend your custodial sentence.

"We are sentencing you to 12 weeks in prison, it would have been 16 had you have not pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, suspended for 12 months.

"For the excess alcohol, it is mandatory that you are disqualified from driving for a period of three years.

"And for the theft we are going to make a compensation order of £438.50."

When asked by the magistrate what he did with the goods he stole, Pope told magistrates he "sold them."

The court heard that he is set to meet with staff at the Asda store to apologise later this month.

The magistrate added: "We are very pleased to hear that you are taking part in restorative justice."

Pope was not ordered to pay any costs.