A SHOPLIFTER who stole to pay a debt to a drugs gang has been jailed.

Preston Crown Court heard how Sarah Healey targeted a Darwen convenience store three times to steal chocolate and toiletries.

The thefts took place at Bargain Booze in Bolton Road on April 24, 25 and 26 and Healey was due to appear before Blackburn Magistrates on December 22, having been released on bail by Preston Magistrates five days earlier.


At the time Blackburn Magistrates heard the 33-year-old, formerly of Ripon Street, Blackburn, failed to attend that hearing because she was hiding from Merseyside drug dealers who she was indebted to.

She was committed to Preston Crown Court in her absence as magistrates heard the shoplifting offences put her in breach of a nine-month suspended prison sentence from December 17, 2015, for offences of false representation, damage, theft from person and failure to surrender to bail.

While awaiting that appearance, the court heard Healey stole around £130 of groceries from Tesco, Blackburn. The court heard that offence took place on January 6.

She also breached the suspended sentence by failing to notify the probation service about a change of address and failing to comply with a curfew, although defence barrister Neil Howard said that was related to her attempts to evade the drug dealers.

Although Healey failed to tell the probation service about her fears, the court heard they had been contacted by the police who expressed concern for her safety.

Mr Howard said: “After the order was made back in December 2015 someone close to her unfortunately passed away through a drugs overdose. She then moved to the Liverpool area to try and attain a fresh start and move away from the temptation of drugs. Then a cousin passed away through drugs.

“She moved back to Darwen to her mother’s house. She unfortunately relapsed, turned to drugs and acquired a debt she had to pay off through shoplifting.” She was living an exceptionally chaotic and dysfunctional lifestyle.

“The situation was further compounded in August 2016 when a close friend of hers was murdered in Darwen. She was somewhat involved in the case and explains the police ringing probation with concern.”

Healey, who has 23 previous convictions for 55 offences, pleaded guilty to four counts of theft, two of failing to surrender to custody and one of breaching a suspended sentence. She was jailed fora total of 11 months.