A mother-of-three has avoided jail for the “despicable” theft of cash from an 84-year-old woman out on a shopping trip in Belfast.
Tina Marley took the pensioner’s purse and then stole £50 from it before handing it in.
The 37-year-old, of Horn Drive, was given a four-month suspended jail term after a judge heard she has since repaid the cash and apologised to her victim.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard she carried out the scam at Boots on Donegall Place in January.
Prosecutor Stephanie Boyd said Marley lifted the elderly lady’s purse out of her bag without her realising what had happened.
She then returned it to staff, saying she had discovered it in the store.
“When the lady collected her purse and wanted to thank whoever had found it, she realised £50 was missing from it,” Mrs Boyd told the court.
“Security checks discovered the defendant had removed the purse rather than having found it on the ground.”
Defence solicitor Dennis Boyd said Marley’ wrote to the pensioner to express regret.
“She acknowledges it was a very despicable thing,” the lawyer added.
Describing the offence as having crossed the custody threshold, District Judge Amanda Henderson said: “This was an extremely vulnerable lady.”
But she decided not to send Marley to prison after taking into account her guilty plea to the theft, apology and troubled background.
Suspending the four-month term for a year, Mrs Henderson said: “It’s to your credit, with the problems you have had and the addiction issues you have faced as a result of personal circumstances, that your record is negligible.”