A MAN stole clothes worth more than £500 to pay off debts to a loan shark and later assaulted an off-duty police officer.
Ashton James Williams, of Dovecot Avenue, Liverpool, was seen on CCTV entering the River Island store in Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre, Wrexham, just before 3.30pm on January 24, before leaving a few minutes later without buying anything.
The store manager discovered at about 4pm that stock worth £560 had gone missing from the store.
And on February 7, Williams, 28, came back to the shop armed with a foil-lined box inside a shopping bag, but was recognised by the manager of the store from the previous incident.
Security guards gave chase on foot before Williams was stopped by an off-duty police officer, PC Neil Jones.
PC Jones saw Williams, who had run off in the direction of Halfords, carrying a large bag and being chased by security staff.
He identified himself as an off-duty police officer but Williams paid no attention and swore and shouted “get out of my way”.
PC Jones grabbed hold of Williams to stop him from getting away.
He told him: “Stay there. It’s not worth it. I am a copper. It’s my day off today.”
Williams continued to struggle, flailing his head around and connecting with PC Jones.
PC Jones tried to sweep Williams’ legs away and take him to the floor but was blocked.
The security guards then arrived and helped detain Williams before more officers attended the scene and he was arrested.
Appearing at Wrexham Magistrates Court yesterday, Williams pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer in the execution of duty.
He had previously pleaded not guilty to the charge.
At a previous hearing, Williams admitted charges of theft and going equipped for theft.
Prosecutor Helen Tench said Williams made no comment in interview with police and added the goods from River Island were not recovered.
Emma Simoes, defending, said Williams, a plasterer by trade, had taken the items in desperation because he had borrowed £500 from a loan shark and was unable to pay the money back.
Bailiffs had made threats to him and his family and Miss Simoes said Williams was “concerned they would be carried out”.
He had did not realised PC Jones was a police officer at first but was compliant when he did.
Miss Simoes added: “In the past he had issues with drugs and alcohol but he turned over a new leaf and has not been in trouble for the last five years.”
Chairman of the magistrates’ bench Roy Dolan warned Williams he was lucky to escape custody for what he described as “professional shoplifting to order”.
Williams was sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 150 hours of unpaid work concurrent for the theft and going equipped for theft.
For the assault, he was ordered to complete a further 50 hours of unpaid work, to be completed consecutively with the 150 hours.
Mr Dolan also ordered him to pay £560 compensation to River Island, as well as a £15 victim surcharge and £85 costs.