A desperate dad who along with his wife stole food Tesco were throwing OUT has been shown pit by a judge who asked: “How are they expected to live?”.
Paul Barker, 39, and Kerry Barker, 29, were seen on CCTV sifting through out-of-date groceries at the back of a store.
The couple are down on their luck and say they have virtually no money to look after themselves or their kids.
But they found themselves in hot water after they were caught taking worthless discarded food from a supermarket bin – in a bid to feed their hungry family.
Police arrived and Mr Barker told officers that the pair were hungry and they knew there would be food at the store.
They were both charged with theft and Paul admitted the offence at Sunderland Magistrates Court.
Kerry is yet to enter a plea and will appear before magistrates on May 30, for the same offence.
But District Judge Roger Elsey took pity on them and said the food they took wasn’t worth anything.
He said he could not impose a penalty in such a case because they are clearly struggling – and gave the dad an absolute discharge.
The judge said: “How are they expected to live? It seems to me the appropriate punishment for taking food which is of no value is an absolute discharge.
“I clearly can’t make any financial order.”
Prosecutor, Jeanette Smith, said the pair were seen in the rear compound of the Hetton Road Tesco Express store, Sunderland, removing a pallet of food on January 5.
She explained that although the items were to be thrown out, they were in a secure compound, adding that Tesco’s policy is not to give away discarded food.
Angus Westgarth, defending, said that when the offence occurred the couple had not been given benefits and had no way to fund food.
He said: “At the time, they hadn’t had benefits or any money since December. It just seems that the state has failed them.
“They were told they would not get any benefits for a year from December. He is having to duck and dive to feed himself.
“Without a crystal ball I can see that this will continue to happen. He is trying to survive however he can.
“I think they call this way of living ‘freeganism’. They take waste food and consume it.
“They are managing to live as, I think, Social Services are paying some money for housing. Their children are living with grandparents because of the situation.”
Barker claims that both he and his wife used to work, but he was forced to quit his job after breaking his back while working as a scaffolder.
He added that his wife Kerry gave up her job at Durham County Council five years ago due to depression and as a result the pair no longer had a source of income.
Because of this, the couple’s children, Jayden-Paul, 3, and Mollie-Mae, 22 months, have now been forced to live with their grandparents.
Kelly said: “We have done that volunetarily. I got sanctioned for a year, so we are just living off Paul’s money.
“If we are stuggling to feed ourselves, I don’t want my kids to be eating food like that.
“I would prefer them to be with their grandparents. I would prefer they were looked after properly. I had a great upbringing and I want them to have that.
“We see them twice a month because my parents run a B&B so we try and go down when they have no guests in. It’s like a two hour journey down.”
She claims her benifits were stopped after she missed an appointment because a letter reminding her of the date was lost in the post.
“I missed an appointment. They said they sent a letter out but I didn’t recive it. I said it must have got lost in the post but they didn’t belive me,” Kelly added.
“Obviously, you have lost sick notes and stuff in the past so why can’t my letter be lost?
“I didn’t recieve it so they stopped my benifits for a year. That runs out in the end of December.”
Kelly’s case is today (13/05), but she expects to be given the same lack of action as her partner.
She said: “We got arrested at different times. Paul got no action. The magistrates have said they have got to give me no action as well because they gave Paul it.
“I have got to plead guilty, yeah, but the judge, because we are frequents and he knows the situation – the judge, he gave us no further action for Paul.
“They have got to give me the same punishment for the same crime.
“I don’t even see it as a crime. I’m sure Tesco didn’t prosecute because it was thrown away. It’s not even like we went in the store and stole it – it was just thrown away in bins.
“We were getting it from out the bins out the back. It wasn’t even out of date. Bread, cakes, pizzas, cans of coke, cheese and chicken wings, that’s all we got.
“We did it about three times. Since we got caught and arrested for it we haven’t been back down there.
“Paul only gets £100 a fortnight and we have to pay top up rent, gas and electric, water rates, TV licence – once all the bills are paid we are left with like five, six quid.
“That is not going to feed you for a fortnight. So we buy what we can with that, from Herons because it is cheap, or Lidl, and then when that runs put we have to go to the bins.
“We have had a food bank before but you are only allowed like one a month. We aren’t allowed them anymore because we don’t have any kids. It stopped once the kids went.
“We were getting them when the kids were her but they have stopped them now.
“We would try and get a weeks worth at a time. As much as we could. Whatever was there that was in date and eadible. They were throwing stuff away that was in date as well. Why is this getting thrown away?”.
Speaking at home after the case, Mr Barker said: “I do it because I need food. I’m not nicking for profit like most.
“You have to be careful with fish, but most out-of-date food you can eat, but things like bread might be slightly harder.
“They should give it to people who need it. But they don’t care, its just money making. It’s wrong, it’s horrible, its like not really living at all. It’s like being in jail.”
A spokesperson for Tesco said they do donate surplus food to people in need, through charity Fareshare and also redistribute food donated by their customers, to the Trussell Trust.
He said: “Working with the charity FareShare, we have already distributed over three million meals worth of surplus food to people in need and we are working on ways to make sure more surplus food is donated in this way.
“It is not safe to take food from bins and that is why we work with charities to redistribute surplus food that is safe to eat to people who need it.”