A CALLOUS thief who stole a charity collection box has escaped going to prison.
Denville Walker, 35, of High Street, Queensbury, admitted taking a large bottle containing loose change on February 25.
The money had been given by regulars at Elland Working Men’s Club to the Forget Me Not charity – a Huddersfield hospice for sick children in Calderdale and Kirklees.
Vanessa Schofield, prosecuting, said: “As a result of an incident in the evening, the bar was shut.” She said the club’s steward did not notice the bottle was missing until the next day after a customer had been tipped off by a taxi driver.
Walker had originally denied the offence and was due to face trial on August 15.
The court heard he was enjoying a drink to celebrate his first night out at the end of a 16-week curfew order.
Walker said the theft came about after he made a joke to another man who had asked to borrow money.
Walker pointed at the collection bottle which was on the bar and said: “Well, there’s some money there’.”
Andrew Vanzie, representing Walker, said his client had made a “foolish decision”.
“It was down to his lack of thought and the fact that he was in drink that something that started out as a joke became something serious,” he said
Mr Vanzie said: “These are always seen as mean offences and I can’t say anything apart from yes, it is.
“In times of austerity and when people who don’t have much and are putting in charity boxes and like, it shows how great people in this country are.”
Walker was already subject to two community orders at the time of the theft. Jim Smith, chairman of the bench, said: “As Mr Vanzie quite rightly says, stealing from charity boxes is always seen as rather nasty, horrible offence.
“This is money that people have given to others in difficult circumstances.”
He said Magistrates’ had stepped back frm custody as they wanted him to complete the community orders and pay compensation.
He was given a four month sentence, suspended for 12 months.
Walker, who has a long offending history, will also be made subject to a curfew.
Chief Executive of the charity, Peter Branson said: “While we were not made aware of this case, it is obviously desperately sad that while the community is working so hard to support children and families who need us there are still people who do something as shocking as this.
“We are immensely grateful for all the support we get, and we will continue to do everything we can to raise the £2.5million a year we will need to run the hospice once it opens later this year and carry on our Hospice at Home service.”
His co-accused will face trial on August 15 at Calderdale Magistrates’ Court.