A ‘persistent and prolific’ shoplifter who stole hundreds of pounds worth of makeup, milk powder and tried to filch a 50-inch telly has been jailed.

Elliott Harper, 26, continued to steal from high street shops and supermarkets despite being on court orders requiring him to stay out of trouble and work with drug addiction services.

Over six months he committed 20 thefts, one attempted theft, was caught with cocaine and cannabis, ran from a police officer and damaged a shop tag, Oxford Crown Court heard.

Harper, who has 40 theft offences on his record and was once jailed for joyriding a milk float around Oxford city centre, was labelled a ‘persistent and prolific offender’ by Recorder John Bate-Williams.

Jailing him for 16 months, the judge said: “Not only must you be punished and deterred from committing further dishonesty offences in the future, but the public must be given some protection from your activities.”

Outlining the case, prosecutor Christopher Pembridge said Harper was caught in Fry’s Hill Park, Oxford, on March 27 last year with a wrap of white powder, later found to be cocaine. When a PC Taylor told the defendant to stand up so he could be arrested he turned on his heels and fled.

Having been charged with drug possession and obstructing a police officer, he failed to turn up for his court hearing in July.

It wasn’t until August 4 that he was eventually picked up and put before the justices – having committed nine more shop thefts, including filching £600-worth of make-up from Sainsbury’s. He also pickpocketed a wallet containing bank cards and £90 in cash.

The magistrates deferred his sentence, ordering he stay out of trouble and work with probation and drug addiction charity Turning Point.

Instead, he continued to steal to fund his drug habit. He attempted to steal a 50-inch television, damaged a store tag and nabbed hundreds of pounds worth of items before his spree was brought to an end in October after he was caught red-handed by store staff and members of the public.

Harper asked for a further nine thefts to be taken into consideration by the sentencing judge.

Defending, Peter du Feu said his client was being assessed for a drug rehabilitation scheme that could have kept him out of prison. Having initially ‘put his shoulder behind it’, he decided the gruelling programme wasn’t for him. “One feels it is an opportunity wasted,” his barrister said.

“He’s quick, intelligent, he’s capable at 26 of so much more but he’s got to break that habit,” Mr du Feu said.

Recorder Bate-Williams told Harper it was a ‘great shame’ he had left the rehabilitation scheme. “You could still be a good example to your estranged daughter in Wales. [But] without putting your back into recovery you will spend longer and longer periods in prison and away from any hope of regaining contact with your daughter.”

Harper, formerly of Botley Road, Oxford, pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to theft, attempted theft, possession of drugs and obstructing a police officer.

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