A THIEF who stole children’s clothing to fund his drug addiction has walked free from court.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard that Richard China, of Northgate, Darlington, had 19 previous theft convictions before his appearance yesterday.

The 46-year-old pleaded guilty to three charges of theft between September 29 and October 27 last year.

Laura Croft, prosecuting, said China stole red wine, fish filter units and dried fish food which were recovered, but children’s clothing £30 was not.

Stephen Andrews, mitigating, said the defendant has a long standing addiction issue with heroin which began when he lost his young daughter some years ago.

China was given a six month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 costs and £21 victim surcharge.