A PRESTON thief has today been jailed for 12 months for stealing poppy tins in Blackburn.
Carl Anthony Mason, 29, of Cresswell Avenue, stole seven collection boxes across Blackburn in the run-up to and on Armistice Day.
Mason, a heroin addict, was caught after staff from two of the premises he targeted recognised him in CCTV footage printed on the front page of the Lancashire Telegraph on November 11.
Catherine Allan, prosecuting, said Mason had pleaded guilty at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court to stealing tins from Gala Bingo, in Ainsworth Street; Blockbuster, in Great Bolton Street; Halifax, in King William Street; from Santander, in King William Street, and Boots stores in both Great Bolton Street and in Fishergate, Preston.
He also admitted attempting to steal a Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) Sooty box from the Lockside Tavern, in Bolton Road, because it was the heaviest of several tins on display and contained the most money, and stealing perfume from Boots.
She said: “This was a breach of people’s trust. People give to those charities to honour servicemen and help families left behind.
“It was a particularly despicable act because of that – especially stealing on Armistice Day itself.”
She said that when caution by police officers Mason replied ‘I’m sorry for all the poppy ones – I didn’t realise how much it meant.’
The court was told that Mason had 43 previous convictions for 77 offences dating back to 1997.
These included dishonesty, drug offences, breaking court orders and stealing charity boxes earlier this year, the latter for which he served a 12-week prison sentence.
Scott Parker, defending Mason, said his client accepted that his offences were ‘shameful’.
He said that when released from prison Mason moved into Jay’s Bed and Breakfast, in Bolton Road, Blackburn, with other people using illegal drugs and began using heroin again.
Mr Parker asked if the case could be adjourned for a pre sentence report that would consider whether Mason could undergo a community drug rehabilitation order.
But it was revealed by the probation service that during his last drug support course Mason continued to use drugs.
Mason, appearing via videolink, read a letter to the court in which he apologised.
He said: “I did not realise how much this meant to the world.
“I have the utmost respect for those in service who protect our country.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say sorry to all those individuals who are fighting for the country. I am so sorry.”
Magistrates said Mason’s early guilty plea had been taken into consideration and for that reason he would not be sent to a crown court for sentencing.
And Dr Bolton said his appeal to undertake another drug rehabilitation programme ‘didn’t cut any ice’.