Mean thief Stephen Condliffe has been jailed after he stole £20 birthday money from an eight-year-old girl.
Little Lacey Tilstone went to a newsagents, in Joyce Avenue, Bradeley, to buy magazines and sweets with the cash a relative gave her to celebrate turning eight.
The youngster made her selection and left the £20 on the counter as she looked at other items.
But the defendant entered, grabbed the note and put it in his sock.
He was challenged outside by Lacey’s grandma and the shopkeeper but he denied any wrongdoing.
But police viewed CCTV which showed him taking the money.
Officers had a whip-round and gave Lacey her £20 plus a further £115 and Asda donated balloons and cake to help restore the young victim’s faith in human nature.
Now 33-year-old Condliffe has been jailed for nine weeks at North Staffordshire Justice Centre.
Prosecutor Sue Hayers said the defendant stole £7 worth of chocolate from Londis on May 2.
And a few hours later he committed the theft of the £20 note.
Miss Hayers said: “The cash was a present to the girl to celebrate her eighth birthday.
“Her grandma took her to the newsagents on Joyce Avenue, Bradeley. The girl was very excited as she was going to spend the money she had been given. Her grandma let her carry the note and she felt important doing it.
“There were two men standing outside.
“The girl went to the magazines and they were there a couple of minutes before walking to the counter. She put the £20 on the counter and went to look at other items.
“Condliffe went to the counter, picked up the note, put it in his sock and left the shop.
“The owner of the shop confirmed it was there and when she turned around it was gone.
“They suspected one of the two men had taken it. She and the grandmother confronted both men outside the shop. They both denied having taken the money.
“They explained it was the child’s money and they said if he gave it back they would be so gratfeul. He had the chance to be a hero and save the day. He did not take it.”
Miss Hayers said the police felt so sorry for the young victim they had a collection and gave the girl £20 and a further £115. And Asda donated some balloons and cake.
Police watched the CCTV and the defendant was arrested the next day.
Condliffe, of no fixed address, originally denied the offences and was due to have a trial but later pleaded guilty to two charges of theft.
Scott Ashdown, mitigating, said the defendant is deeply ashamed.
He said: “He wishes to point out that he did not plan to take from a child. He accepts he saw the note on the counter and took it. It is right he could have saved the day, as it has been put, and he did not.
“Thankfully, as a result of the charitable work of the local constabulary, she has more than been compensated.”
He said before the defendant was recalled to prison he was the victim of some ‘vigilante justice’.
Mr Ashdown said: “He was found under the sink and appeared to have some injuries to his back and other areas of his body.”
He added: “This was impulsive and opportunistic.”
Magistrates ordered Condliffe to pay £20 compensation to the girl, £7 to Londis and a £128 surcharge.
Magistrate Vikki Botham said: “As far as thefts go, this is up there with the lowest. I think you know that. Taking money from an eight-year-old is not good.
“You were given an opportunity to put it right outside the shop and you stood your ground and lied to the grandmother who tackled you over it. That just makes the situation even worse.”
Speaking after the case, Chief Inspector Mark Barlow, commander for Stoke North Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This girl was walking around the shop and planned to buy a magazine with a £20 note she was given for her birthday but Condliffe stole it.
“He was challenged by the shopkeeper but denied it and left. She was understandably upset so my officers chipped in some of their own cash to surprise the girl along with a cake, balloons and her own personal sing song at her address.
“Condliffe could have ruined her birthday but Staffordshire Police gave her one to remember instead.”