A SHOPLIFTER who repeatedly raided Co-op stores, stealing more than £1,500 of booze, has been branded a "thorough nuisance" by a judge.

Just days after being released from prison, drug addict David Bird targeted supermarkets in Bolton and Adlington, threatening staff if they tried to get in his way as he walked out with dozens of bottles of spirits.

Bolton Crown Court heard how Bird was arrested after a spate of thefts from the Co-op in Darwen Road, Bolton, but was then released and went on to commit more crimes at the Co-op in Bolton Road, Adlington.

He was finally caught and returned to prison in February.

His barrister, Mark Friend, told the Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh that this has been the longest period 43-year-old Bird has been drug-free and appealed for him to be released from custody so that he can work with organisations to help him continue the progress in the community.

"The defendant has been allowed an opportunity to reflect," said Mr Friend.

Judge Walsh agreed, but warned Bird that if he fails then he will be jailed for at least two years.

Shirlie Duckworth, prosecuting, told the court how Bird, of no fixed address, was released from prison on December 20 last year after serving a sentence for theft, but six days later, on Boxing Day, he walked into the Darwen Road store, putting bottles of alcohol in a basket.

As a member of staff tried to stop him leaving he told them; "Let go of the f***ing basket or I'll bottle you."

Three days later he went back to the shop and again filled a basket with drink worth £100 before leaving, only to return and do the same on January 2, after which he was recognised on CCTV and arrested.

Bird also targeted the Co-op store in Adlington on December 28 and January 1 and was seen driving off despite being banned from holding a licence. Again, he threatened members of staff, waving a bottle over his head as he left, telling them, "I'll smash this over your head."

After being questioned about the Bolton thefts Bird returned to the Adlington store and stole more alcohol on January 23, 24, 25, 27, 28 and 30 before he was arrested on February 3.

In total he stole drink worth £1,584.

He pleaded guilty to 10 counts of theft, two offences of using threatening behaviour, driving whist banned and having no insurance.

Bird was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years. He will also be subject to a 7pm to 7am curfew for four months, must participate in 12 months of drug treatment and undertake 40 days of rehabilitation activities.

In addition he was banned from entering the Bolton and Adlington Co-op stores of two years.

Judge Walsh warned Bird that his crimes had come "perilously close" to being treated as robbery.

He told Bird, who has convictions for 82 previous offences: "You have an appalling record, primarily for petty theft.

"The truth of the matter is, you are a distressing nuisance to people who are simply running shops to provide services to the local community."

He added that although Bird "richly deserves" to be sent to prison immediately it was in the public interest for the probation service to be given an opportunity to work with him.

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