A COMPULSIVE gambler is trying to get himself banned from every betting shop in Darlington after he stole to feed his addiction, a court heard.

Michael Graham Wallace, of Outram Street, Darlington, admitted three theft offences when he appeared before magistrates in Newton Aycliffe.

Two of the three thefts were committed within hours of him appearing before the court on another theft matter in August.

That time he was given an eight-month community order for shop theft.

Wallace, who was said to have some medical problems and learning difficulties, admitted stealing two bottles of alcohol from the Co-op in West Auckland Road, Darlington,in July, £60 worth of clothing from Matalan,on Neasham Road, Darlington, on August 10, and and £30 of meat from one of the Asda stores in the town on August 11.

Alan Davison, prosecuting, said a security guard spotted him leaving Matalan with the stolen goods and chased him, causing him to drop the items, so they were recovered.

When interviewed by police, Wallace made full admissions to all of the offences, the court heard.

Liz McGowan, for Wallace, said: “One of the aggravating features is that he receives the community order with probation and commits two of the offences.

“One is on the same day he gets the order, and one the next day.

“This is less about him being a drug user and more that he is a gambler.

“He has an addictive personality, and he is being dealt with by the North East Gambling Alliance (NEGA).

“He sold the items he stole and went straight down the bookies.”

She said his key worker at NEGA was ‘helping him to get himself barred from all of the gambling premises in Darlington’.

“Probation say apart from that, he is doing well. He lives in assisted housing. He has assistance from services on a weekly basis.”

Probation officers told the court that Wallace was subject to an eight-month community order, and that he had been keeping his appointments.

They said there were ‘concerns that there is ongoing drug use’ .

Wallace had 29 offences on his record, with a ‘prolific nature of shop theft in the past’.

Magistrates said they had decided to impose a curfew.

The curfew will be in place for six weeks, from 7pm to 7m.

He was also given a compensation order for £59 to pay the shops back for the items he had stolen. A cost order of £85 was made.