Leamington shoplifter jailed after brandishing syringe needle at store manager

A shoplifter who brandished a syringe needle when a Leamington store manager tried to stop him getting away with meat and coffee he had stolen has been jailed.

Matthew Court had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to threatening the manager of the Sainsbury’s store in Radford Road, Leamington, with ‘an article with a blade or point.

The Justice Centre in Leamington, which is home to Warwick Crown Court.

The Justice Centre in Leamington, which is home to Warwick Crown Court.

But part-way through his trial, he changed his plea to guilty on an alternative offence of possessing a sharply pointed article in a public place.

Court (36) who is from Leamington but of no fixed address, who had earlier pleaded guilty to theft from the store, was jailed for 16 months.

Prosecutor Anthony Cartin told the jury: “At about 10.30 at night on Saturday January 12, the defendant decided to shoplift from Sainsbury’s in Radford Road.

“The prosecution say he was quite blatant about it, and when he noticed a member of staff looking at the items in his basket, he confronted that member of staff.”

Mr Cartin said the staff member, store manager John Sumner, had become suspicious after seeing a number of jars of different brands of decaf coffee in Court’s basket.

Realising his activity had been spotted, Court brazened it out by turning to Mr Sumner, demanding: “What are you looking at? Do you think I’m robbing?”

He went on to say that if he wanted anything, he would just take it, and was not bothered about the police.

He was asked to leave, but said he didn’t care, and asked what Mr Sumner thought he was going to do about it.

“The defendant said he was taking what was in the basket, and began to add several packets of meat to it. He then simply walked out of the shop with the basket.”

Mr Cartin said that as Court was getting on his bike to cycle away with the stolen goods, Mr Sumner tried to stop him by grabbing hold of the bike.

“The defendant put the basket down and Mr Sumner picked it up, and then then defendant became increasingly aggressive towards him, so Mr Sumner let go of the bike.

“The defendant came towards him, getting in his face, so Mr Sumner also put the basket down and pushed him back, and then there was a commotion over the basket.

“At this point the defendant upped the ante and placed his hand in his pocket and produced a packet, a wrapped syringe with a needle, and he unwrapped it and took out the needle.”

It was alleged he pointed it at Mr Sumner, threatening him with it before getting on his bike and cycling away.

The police found Court on his bike just over a quarter of a mile away, and although he did not have any of the stolen items on him, he accepted he had been in the store.

When he was searched, in his pocket the officers found the opened packet with the syringe still in it, but no needle.

He admitted he had gone into the shop to steal, but claimed he had been punched in the face by a member of staff who had threatened him, arguing that it was Mr Sumner who was ‘out of order’ for calling the police and wanting the shop’s goods back.

Court, who had previous convictions for theft, denied taking anything from the packet or having a needle on him, before eventually pleading guilty to having the needle.