A “relentless” thief who pocketed over £ 1,600 worth of goods on a Washington crime spree has been put back behind bars. 

Julie Shields targeted the town’s Sainsbury’s, Co-op, and Asda Express stores during a shameless shoplifting spree between May 9 and June 4 this year.

The 40-year-old was jailed for eight weeks in April after being convicted of two counts of theft - but had already reoffended within 48 hours of being released on May 7.

Now, after stealing more than £ 1,600 worth of goods within a four-week period, the prolific thief has been slapped with a six-month jail term in a bid to put a stop to her selfish offending. 

Shields, of no fixed abode, was also convicted of breaching a restraining order which forbids her from entering the Co-op in Concord.

Sentence is ‘music to the ears’ of Washington businesses

Sergeant Patrick Scott, of Northumbria Police’s neighbourhood policing team in Washington, said: “This longer custodial sentence is likely to be music to the ears of businesses across the town.

“Julie Shields has relentlessly stole from supermarkets and stores across Washington, showing a total disregard for the law and others for entirely selfish means.

“Within two days of being released from prison for shoplifting offences, Shields proved she has not learnt by committing a string of further thefts – and I’m pleased that her escalating offending has been reflected with a six-month jail term.

“We will not tolerate criminality and Shields is a prolific offender who has been a drain on police resources for some time.

“I sincerely hope she uses this time to reflect on her actions, and use her time behind bars as an opportunity for a fresh start whenever she returns to the community.”

Shields’ conviction comes as Operation Dreyfus continues in Washington, having launched earlier this year following a spike in vehicle-related crime and thefts. 

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The crime crackdown sees uniformed and plain-clothed officers carry out targeted patrols both day and night in hotspot areas. It also coincides with a “robust front-footed response” as the neighbourhood team continue to pursue perpetrators and target offenders. 

In recent weeks, nine suspected thieves have been arrested following a range of warrants executed, with four of those now charged with various offences and due to appear before the courts.

Anyone who sees anything suspicious in their community should report it to police here. In an emergency, or if a crime is taking place, always ring 999.