Thief jailed after stealing cash from Weston church

Stephen Emsley was sentenced to one-year in prison. Picture: Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Stephen Emsley was sentenced to one-year in prison. Picture: Avon and Somerset Constabulary - Credit: Avon and Somerset Constabulary

A Weston thief, who stole money from a church collection set up to remember the dead to ‘fund his drug habit’, has been jailed for his crimes.

Stephen Emsley, aged 44, admitted pinching cash donated to Weston’s Corpus Christi Catholic Church.

He targeted the church, in Ellenborough Park South, for the first time on November 20 when he stole the cash from the candle stand – where people light a flame in memory of a loved one.

Prosecutor Joanna Packer said at an earlier hearing CCTV footage showed a man entering the church on four occasions in late-November.

She said: “On November 25, he entered with another unknown male, and they were seen lighting a candle and started to pray before leaving.”

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The court heard on one of the occasions, a hacksaw had been found by the candle stand shortly after Emsley was in the church, but it could not be confirmed whether it belonged to him.

He was sentenced on January 31 after pleading guilty to several charges including two counts of theft, four counts of attempted theft and one count of assault.

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While on bail, Emsley entered Boots on Weston High Street.

Ms Packer said: “Thomas Davies, the security officer, instantly recognised Emsley as he had previously been banned from the store.

“After asking him to leave, he responded ‘what are you going to do about it fat boy?’

“He returned later and called Mr Davies a ‘w*****’ and a ‘fat c***’.

“When Mr Davies went to remove him, Emsley fell onto an unknown male he had come in with. He threw a punch at Mr Davies and spat at him before hitting him in the face.”

Lisa-Jane Lovett, chair of the bench, said: “The offence is serious because you targeted a church in the community to fund your drug habit.”

Anjam Arif, defending, said: “This is a desperately sad situation for the defendant who has a long-standing drug problem.

“When Emsley committed the offences he lost all thought of responsibility and the consequences of his actions.

“He was so in need of drugs he commits these offences without thinking of any impact at all.”

Emsley, of no fixed abode, was also sentenced for stealing gift packs – to the sum of £134 – from Clevedon’s Boots store on November 20.

He was ordered to serve one year in prison, pay the estimated £100 taken from the church and £50 to Mr Davies in compensation.

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