Shoplifter arrested in front of Chris Philp admits theft spree

EXCLUSIVE Shoplifter arrested in front of policing minister Chris Philp as he talked to store staff about shoplifting admits week-long theft spree – and walks free from court

  • Patrolling officers pounced on an alleged shoplifter as he walked out of Next 

The shoplifter who as arrested in front of policing minister Chris Philp as he talked to store staff about the issue pleaded guilty this morning – and walked free from court.

Asher Gayle was arrested after police who were patrolling the Northampton shopping centre to coincide with Mr Philp’s visit overheard a security guard reporting concerns the thief appeared to be ‘bagging up’ items in a branch of Next.

But just hours after Mr Philp had told the Daily Mail he wanted to see a ‘zero tolerance’ approach against shoplifting, magistrates imposed an eight-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, despite hearing how the theft was part of a week-long shoplifting spree committed by Gayle.

A court heard that when the 44-year-old Gayle was arrested on Tuesday afternoon he was carrying aftershave, socks and underwear from Next worth a combined £129 in two Primark plastic bags – with no receipt.

Prosecutor Julie Costello said that police then spoke to staff at the Superdry store opposite Next in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, who informed them that it had also fallen victim to recent shoplifting raids.

Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire Chris Philip MP watches as Asher Gayle is arrested by police at the Grosvenor Shopping centre in Northampton

Asher Gayle (pictured) outside Northampton Magistrates’ Court following his sentencing

On a visit to Northampton, Chris Philp met officers working on the local constabulary’s annual Operation Lapland campaign

Mr Philp said the incident highlighted the value of regular police patrols in shoplifting hotspots

Gayle was remanded in custody overnight and appeared before magistrates in the town today, pleading guilty to four counts of shoplifting since December 13, including two thefts on the same say.

The court heard he stole six items of mens’ clothing from Superdry on December 13, worth a combined £179.94, and another £59.84 worth of mens clothes taken from the same store the following day.

Also on Thursday last week, Gayle took ten items without paying from a branch of Home Bargains in the town, worth £52.92, Mrs Costello said.

During his visit to the county town on Tuesday, Mr Philp met officers working on the local constabulary’s annual Operation Lapland campaign, which tackles crimes such as shoplifting, theft, burglary and vehicle crime which tend to rise at this time of year.

The minister was accompanied by three neighbourhood officers, as well as the scandal-hit county’s police and fire commissioner, Stephen Mold.

But as the group walked around the indoor mall, one of two pairs of response officers who were also seen on patrol in the mall pounced on Gayle after he walked out of Next.

But as the minister walked around the Grosvenor Shopping Centre with the officers, one of two pairs of additional officers seen patrolling the mall pounced on an alleged shoplifter

But Mr Ford later told the Mail that the visit was the first time he had seen police in the shopping centre ‘in months’

The court heard the officers were ‘assisting with an event within the town centre in relation to retail crime carried out in Northampton as well as nationally.’

Colin Ford – a store manager at Boots who was one of the shop workers who spoke to Mr Philp about the scourge of shoplifting during the visit – later told the Mail the visit was the first time he had seen police in the shopping centre ‘in months’.

Speaking at the mall on Tuesday, Mr Philp said the shoplifting incident highlighted the value of regular police patrols in shoplifting hotspots – something the Government has committed £60m of funding towards from next April – as he endorsed the Mail on Sunday’s campaign for stiffer action to be taken against shoplifting.

But a Home Office spokesman said the minister would not be commenting on Gayle’s punishment when contacted today.

The Mail On Sunday campaign demands tougher penalties for shoplifters – and abuse or violence towards shop staff made a specific offence.

Mr Philp, the MP for Croydon South, said the Government’s new Retail Crime Action Plan (RCAP) wanted to go beyond simply seeing more shoplifters face charges. He told the Mail: ‘I want to go a lot further than that…You’re right in your campaign. I want to have a zero tolerance approach to shoplifting.’

The British Retail Consortium estimates shoplifting costs the British High Street nearly £1 billion per year, but police have been accused of decriminalising shoplifting after legislation introduced in 2014 allowed officers to close low level cases with a fine rather than investigate them.

Mr Philip posing with a police officer outside the shopping centre in Northampton 

Northampton police talking to Mr Philip about crime in the area

Mr Philip talking to locals in the Grosvenor Shopping centre in Northampton

The new RCAP, which was commissioned by Mr Philp, includes a commitment that police forces will attend incidents where the offender is detained, or where violence has been inflicted on a shop worker.

READ MORE – Northampton police officers take down suspected shoplifter – right in front of Policing minister who was on a visit to shopping centre 

Ritesh Veja, defending Gayle yesterday, said his client had a decades-long drug dependency until three years ago, when he ‘managed to come off drugs altogether’ by himself – and had not been convicted of an offence in that time.

But the court heard Gayle, of no fixed abode, turned to Class A drugs again after becoming homeless two months ago, and also suffered with anxiety and depression.

He was handed the suspended sentence which also included a six month drug rehabilitation requirement; comprising structured treatment and regular drug testing.

He was also ordered to pay £292.70 in compensation, a mandatory victim surcharge of £154 and costs of £85.

Asked if he wished to comment outside court, Gayle, who covered his face with a newspaper, replied: ‘F*** off’.

Mr Mold attracted controversy earlier this year over the appointment of a woman to lead the county’s fire service, even though she had zero experience. Five separate sources told the Mail on Sunday that Nicci Marzec, 51, was the commissioner’s lover, but Mr Mold insisted she was just a ‘really good friend’.

Ms Marzec stood down after ten days after the widespread criticism of her appointment. 

But the Mail on Sunday then revealed she had landed a top job at a taxpayer-funded firm where Mr Mold is chairman.

A spokesman for Mr Mold said previously: ‘Ms Marzec and Stephen Mold are not and have never been in a relationship. 

In July of this year, Mr Mold said: ‘My friendship with Ms Marzec is well known and openly declared. I am not now, nor have ever been, in a romantic relationship with her.’

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