Honiton toothpaste thieves were not whiter than white

PERSISTENT thieves with the same name counted a large haul of toothpaste, stolen from a Honiton supermarket, among their hauls, a court has heard.

PERSISTENT thieves with the same name counted a large haul of toothpaste, stolen from a Honiton supermarket, among their hauls, a court has heard.

Father and son Robert Francis, 51, and Robert John Francis, 29, appeared at Central Devon Magistrates' Court last Friday, where they were referred to as Francis Senior and Francis Junior, respectively.

Francis Junior pleaded guilty four charges of theft, and Francis Senior to three.

The court heard Francis Junior stole two Mira shower units from Homebase in Honiton on June 25 of last year, toothpaste to the value of �187 from the Co-op in Honiton on January 15, toiletries to the value of �66 in Budleigh Salterton on January 16 and deodorant to the value of �100 in Spar Stores, Tavistock, on December 17 of last year.

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Francis Senior admitted to the two thefts in Honiton, and to stealing safe keys and cash from a safe belonging to Athena, in Exeter, on September 23 of last year.

The court heard a staff member at Athena challenged Francis Senior for the keys, at which the defendant shouted and pointed to distract him and ran off.

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The Guildhall security staff caught him, and he was found with several money bags and the safe keys in his possession.

Both had previous convictions for theft, and one was in breach of a conditional discharge.

In mitigation, Mervyn Williams said the men committed the offences because they were in financial difficulty. He presented Judge Paul Farmer with a medical report for Francis Senior.

Judge Farmer said: "He [Francis junior] seems determined to emulate his father and acquire a record, which is unbelievable.

"The two together seem to be an unhealthy combination."

Mr Williams said Francis Junior had received an offer of employment in Birmingham.

Judge Farmer said: "You are both persistent thieves.

"It's the only description that can be given to either of you in view of your records."

He said they were both past the custody threshold and criticised the pair for giving "no comment" in police interview - and costing the public purse unnecessary money.

Francis Junior was given an eight week prison sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay �459 in compensation.

He said he had little sympathy for Francis Senior, but spared him jail - only because of his illness.

He was given a 16 week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay �239 in compensation.

He was also ordered to carry out a 'thinking skills programme' in the hope it was not too late to change his ways.

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