Judge blasts shoplifters ‘a disgrace to their country’

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A group of ‘professional shoplifters’ were blasted by a district judge after stealing hundreds of pounds worth of clothes from a shop.

The group of four Romanians were branded ‘a disgrace to their country’ by District Judge Callum Watkiss-Rooney at Kirklees Magistrates Court last Friday.

Aurelia Lapusan, 19, Marian Gheorghe, 20, Cornel Balaiu, 36, and Gheorghe Pongori, 25 – all of William Street, Ravensthorpe – admitted theft from TK Maxx in Huddersfield on June 8.

Robert Campbell, prosecuting, told the court that staff at the store noticed the group acting suspiciously.

He said: “They were moving items from shelf to shelf and forming huddles from time to time.”

The four had stuffed trainers and items of clothing worth £700 into the store’s own bags. They were arrested but did not answer questions put to them by officers.

Mr Campbell said: “The only person who did not have a bag was Pongori. He was the one staff had seen removing security tags.”

He added that while all of the items were recovered, some damage was caused where tags were removed.

Lapusan also admitted a separate shop theft of three bottles of perfume as well as repeatedly breaking a court-ordered curfew.

Pongori pleaded guilty to further charges of driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and for overfilling a car with five other people.

Zahid Majeed, mitigating, said that the defendants had resorted to theft after struggling to find permanent work after moving to the country.

He added that, as Romanian nationals were not entitled to a national insurance number, obtaining legitimate work or any form of benefit was difficult.

But Mr Watkiss-Rooney told them: “I take the view that you are professional shoplifters.

“You are very welcome from Romania in this country and by the offences that you have admitted you besmirch the name of Romanian people and bring it into disgrace.”

He added that all but Balaiu had committed other offences and failed to comply with court orders.

Balaiu was handed a conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £25 in compensation to the store, £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

The other three were sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £25 in compensation, £85 costs and a £80 victim surcharge.

Mr Watkiss-Rooney said he hoped he would not appear in court again. He added: “In the event that you do, you may as well bring any belongings with you to take to prison.”