A THIEF who assaulted a shop worker and was found carrying a hunting knife has been spared jail.

Bolton magistrates heard how, on February 15, Stephen Hoyes was in Home Bargains, Farnworth - a store he was banned from entering.

Shahid Khan, prosecuting, told how worker Kieran Tipping ordered him to leave.

“The defendant took exception to this and said, ‘Why am I f***ing barred? I haven’t done anything wrong,” said Mr Khan.

Hoyes, aged 54, continued being abusive and stepped towards Mr Tipping.

“He gets right into his face, stares at him for a few seconds and then hits him on the left shoulder,” said Mr Khan.

Hoyes headed towards the doorway but CCTV showed he had stolen a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and detergent, putting them in a pocket.

When he was arrested he was also found to have a large hunting knife in a pocket.

The Bolton News: Stephen HoyesStephen Hoyes

Hoyes pleaded guilty to shoplifting and possessing a knife as well as stealing a woman’s handbag from her car in a separate incident. He was found guilty of assaulting the shop worker following a trial.

The court heard that he already has 36 convictions for 92 offences, mostly for theft, and has been sentenced previously for possessing a knife.

Joshelle Holgate, defending, appealed to magistrates not to jail Hoyes immediately.

She added that the grandfather-of-four has been a heavy drinker for the last 25 years, which has taken a toll on his health, but he now wants to address his problems and has found employment as a maintenance worker.

“For the first time in 10 years he has been able to secure stable accommodation,” said Miss Holgate.

“He tells me that if he is sent to custody he fears losing the flat as well as losing employment.”

Hoyes, of Holcombe Crescent, Kearsley, was sentenced to 32 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months during which he must have treatment for alcohol addiction and participate in 20 days of rehabilitation activities.

He was also electronically tagged and made subject to a 7pm to 7am curfew for eight weeks and must pay £620 towards prosecution costs, £50 in compensation and £128 towards the costs of funding victim services.