A DRUG user committed gradually more serious burglaries on the same morning in an increasingly desperate bid to be able to pay her debts, a court was told.

Gemma Louise Anderson tried one house door, but did not go inside, prior to entering another property where a resident was present, before leaving empty-handed.

But, Durham Crown Court heard in the third bid to enter property she wandered into warden-controlled accommodation and sneaked into the bedroom of an elderly resident, from where she stole a purse and jewellery.

The 38-year-old defendant, of Keswick Road, Peterlee, was before the court for sentence having admitted burglary in which theft took place, burglary with intent to steal and attempted burglary.

She made her admissions at a hearing before magistrates, who sent the case to the crown court for sentence.

Michael Cahill, prosecuting, told the sentencing hearing that all the offences took place on the morning of Tuesday March 29 this year, and all were at residential properties in Peterlee.

Mr Cahill said Anderson merely tried a door but did not go into the first property, and aborted the second occupied house, in Chapel Hill Road, having taken nothing, both at about 9.30am.

But in the third, a short time later, she entered warden-controlled accommodation in Hatfield Place via a communal door and went into a flat occupied by a woman with hearing and visual difficulties.

Although Anderson was challenged, she left having stolen a purse, containing about £400, and items of jewellery, some of a great sentimental value to the resident.

Mr Cahill said the break-in had a severe impact on the elderly victim, who has suffered increased anxiety and now has to have her doors locked to offer her reassurance.

Marte Alneas, representing Anderson, said she has no previous offences for burglary and has never served a custodial sentence.

She said a suspended sentence order was a realistic submission as there is a genuine prospect of rehabilitation in her case.

“There’s been a misuse issue here with drugs and Miss Anderson has taken massive steps to deal with this and wants to go to a rehabilitation centre and wants to look at counselling if she is not jailed today.”

Miss Alneas said Anderson has steered clear of drugs since her arrest.

“An immediate prison sentence will interrupt her rehabilitation and, so, create a bigger problem upon her release into the community, and she will have to start again at the beginning.”

Read more: Addict stole from gran to pay drug debts

But Judge James Adkin told the defendant: “You have to be sentenced for three offences all in the morning of March 29, when it seems you were intent on committing burglary to try to pay off drug debts.”

He said it seems she eventually succeeded having targeted a “particularly vulnerable victim”, causing her a, “significant loss of jewellery due to its sentimental value.”

Judge Adkin imposed a 28-month prison sentence, with ten-months concurrent for the other two offences.

It means the defendant must serve up to half of the sentence, about 14 months, before she will be released on licence.

Following the hearing temporary Detective Inspector, Darren Wild, said: “Criminals like Anderson plague our communities with their repeat offending to fund their illegal drug habits and often target the most vulnerable, so we are pleased to see her back behind bars.

“This case shows how much the use of illegal drugs can harm not only the user but other members of our communities and we will not stop in targeting the drug dealers who orchestrate these offenders.”


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