Serial shoplifter convicted for 175th time is spared jail AGAIN after magistrates give her ‘another chance'

Last updated at 00:43 28 March 2008

A Shoplifter convicted for the 175th time was spared a prison sentence after magistrates decided to give her

another last chance.

Joanne Jones, 31, has faced more than 200 court hearings and served 34 jail terms over the past 16 years, at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £700,000.

But she walked free from the court after Canterbury magistrates decided there was a "chink of light" to suggest

she could change – despite the fact that she was on bail when she committed her last offence and is still hooked on heroin.

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Jones has plagued the city since she first appeared in its youth court at 16.

She has since averaged 12 court appearances a year, but has never been jailed for longer than 12 months.

After admitting her 175th offence – stealing underwear worth £117 from TK Maxx – on Wednesday, magistrate

Neil Hubbard told her: "We'll give you another chance.

"You are no stranger to this court. However, on this occasion there's a chink of light in your favour, which

gives us some chance of hope for you.

"We are going to give you another opportunity if you can manage it."

Jones, who is unemployed and receiving £50 a week in benefits, went on to confess stealing £40 worth of make-up from Asda – an offence not on the charge sheet – in the hope of a lenient sentence.

She was given a 90-day suspended sentence and ordered her to pay TK Maxx £40 compensation for damaging

the underwear as she tore off the security tags.

Defence solicitor Ian Bond told the court Jones had made "progress".

He added: "I know she is still in her early thirties and and the court has dealt with her again and again and again.

"She has been sent to prison on 34 separate occasions. I think there is some scintilla of hope for the future that good progress can be made.

"There is some suggestion that she is complying with the probation service."

The court accepted Mr Bond's recommendation that Jones only undergo a "medium intensity" drug rehabilitation

programme because she might "fail" the harder course.

Mr Bond added: "When dealing with someone like Joanne Jones we would be better off not setting her up to fail."

A court insider said after the hearing: "Nobody can believe Joanne has been given another chance.

"She has been in and out of this court since she was a teenager and still she keeps coming back. She has had 16 years of chances. When is it going to be her last chance?

"There is no point sending her out into the community again – it's not as if we don't know what is going to happen.

"She'll be back here by the end of next month. In 2003 everyone thought she had turned over a new leaf as

she was only jailed four times that year.

"But it started up again soon after that and has been getting worse ever since."

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