A SERIAL shoplifter and former alcoholic who admitted being drunk in charge of a toddler has avoided jail.

Michelle Edwards, aged 37, of Cecilia Street, Great Lever, has 22 previous convictions, relating to 45 offences.

Police spotted her stumbling along Trinity Street on January 18 at about 8.30pm with a small child and a mountain bike after a concerned member of the public called to report her.

She had been with her partner at the time, who had left her with the child after a row over a £10 note, which had been misplaced.

Edwards denied being drunk when she was later interviewed by police but CCTV footage showed her swaying in the police station when she was first arrested, while her speech was slurred and she was unco-operative with officers.

"The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was said to be “extremely upset and distressed” when Edwards was arrested.

Bolton Magistrates’ Court heard how Edwards had been involved in a “drink participation programme” since April, 2013, but had started drinking again in December last year.

Rahil Khan, defending, said she had lapsed as her support officer from Urban Outreach had been away at the time.

In pleading guilty to being drunk in charge of a child under seven, Edwards also breached a 12-month conditional discharge, imposed in December for stealing a £15 watch from TK Maxx.

Magistrates sentenced her to 12 month community orders for both offences, to run concurrently.

When police arrested Edwards, she twice told them: “You are just sick, the lot of you”, before swearing repeatedly.

She told police she had drunk two pints of Frosty Jack’s cider, although police found a half-empty three litre bottle in her rucksack.

Items for a toddler were found in her bag, showing she was in charge of the child.

Mr Khan said: “In 2013, Miss Edwards participated in drink programme from April. Significant was that her support worker from Urban Outreach was away in December when she started drinking again.”

Mr Khan told the court Edwards may have become confused during police interviews, as a result of the argument or her “drinking”.

He added: “She has not consumed any alcohol since this offence and is keen to put it behind her now.”

The court was told how Edwards’ lengthy criminal record mostly relates to dishonesty offences, many of them shoplifting.

She pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, which magistrates took into consideration when passing sentence.