Poppy Appeal tin thieves used children as shop decoys, Loughborough court told
A gang of thieves used children to distract shop assistants as they stole charity tins.
Lisa Martin and partner Lee Smith teamed up with a third person, Gareth Smith, to shoplift and steal Poppy Appeal tins which had been put in stores by the Royal British Legion, magistrates in Loughborough were told yesterday.
All three pleaded guilty at the court to offences of theft, which included charity boxes.
Chairman of the bench Dale Jackson told the trio: "Some of your offences included stealing from poppy donation boxes, which is socially repugnant.
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"This was organised, a gang. You sometimes took children with you. This was professional offending."
Dr Jackson committed the gang to Leicester Crown Court for sentencing because the bench felt its powers were not enough to deal with the matter.
Prosecutor Sally Bedford told how the trio had gone out to steal from shops as a gang, sometimes taking a five-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy with them.
She said the gang struck at shops and supermarkets in Ashby, Shepshed, Loughborough and Birstall.
Miss Bedford said the team struck at the Asda supermarket in Shepshed on November 12.
"The group was identified on CCTV," she said.
"Children are with them. One child was sat on a counter to conceal their movements.
"On this occasion alcohol worth £300 – mostly vodka – was stolen."
Miss Bedford said the gang also stole charity boxes by using either scissors or pliers to cut a chain used to hold the tins to the till areas.
She said: "Members of the public made their donations at the time of the year. These monies were stolen, monies that would otherwise have gone to the Royal British Legion."
Lee Smith (38), of Warwick Way, Loughborough, pleaded guilty to 12 offences of theft from shops between August 1 and November 16.
These offences included stealing five Royal British Legion charity tins.
Martin (33), of Warwick Way, Loughborough, admitted eight offences between August 1 and November 12.
Two of these offences included Royal British Legion charity tins.
Gareth Smith (29), of Waterside Close, Loughborough, pleaded guilty to six offences between August 9 and November 12.
These offences included stealing three Royal British Legion.
Jay Morjaria, representing Gareth Smith, said his client, who had 78 previous offences, had a drug and alcohol problem. Jane Hinds, for Lisa Martin, said her client had pleaded guilty and had only been involved in the theft of two charity tins.
Mrs Hinds, also representing Lee Smith, said he had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. They will be sentenced at Leicester Crown court on December 17.