£10 jeans theft three month sentence reduced after appeal

A 27-year-old Strabane woman has won her appeal against a prison sentence for stealing jeans worth £10.

Alison Hewitt, a single parent from Patterson Park, was sent to jail for three months.

The Court of Appeal ruled today that the original three months prison sentence was "manifestly excessive" and ordered her to serve 100 hours community service instead.

27-year-old Alison Hewitt was convicted by a jury at Derry Crown Court of stealing the jeans from a small clothes shop in Derry in August 2009.

A four-day Crown Court trial heard that she took three pairs into a changing room, along with her young daughter in a pram, but only returned two.

The severity of the punishment handed down to a first-time offender provoked widespread public shock.

Her lawyers argued in the Court of Appeal today that it went beyond a reasonable response to the offence of shoplifting.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said those who target shopkeepers trying to run businesses in difficult times must realise they risk going to jail.

But Sir Declan took note of her age, lack of any previous convictions, and her parental responsibilities.

He said these factors may not have been as obvious and developed before the trial judge as they were on appeal.