A PROLIFIC shoplifter with a penchant for stealing pens has been banned from Bury town centre.

John Hodgson, aged 45, of Coronation Road, Radcliffe, nicknamed the ‘pen pincher’ by traders, has been convicted 20 times for shoplifting since May, 2010, and also has convictions for drugs offences.

On January 2, Hodgson went with accomplice Edward Fitzgerald, aged 45, of Bolton Road, Radcliffe, to WH Smith in Haymarket Street, Bury, and the pair stole £600 worth of Parker pens, worth about £35 each.

Staff noticed them behaving suspiciously and handed over CCTV evidence to Bury Police and they were arrested.

This latest offence prompted police to ask for a wide-ranging anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) to be issued.

Last Thursday, both men pleaded guilty to theft before Bury magistrates, who gave Fitzgerald and Hodgson a 12-month conditional discharge as well as ordering Fitzgerald to pay £200 compensation from his benefits.

They ordered Hodgson to follow the terms of an ASBO, which means he cannot enter Bury town centre.

The ban area is bordered by Jubilee Way, Peel Way including Woodfield Retail Park, Wash Lane, York Street including Moorgate Retail Park, Lord Street, Cecil Street including Halls Mill and Angouleme Retail Park, Market Street and Angouleme Way.

However, Hodgson will be allowed to attend appointments with the community drugs team in Bury.

After the hearing, a WH Smith spokesman said: “We are pleased with the outcome.

“Hopefully, this will put him off coming here.”

A trader working in the town centre, who asked not to be named, said: “I’ve seen him trying to sell pens on to people before. We call him the pen pincher. It’s great that the police have finally come down hard on him.”