Support needed for shoplifting addict

Christchurch needs a centre where women can stay with their young children while they battle their addiction issues, said a judge as she released a compulsive shoplifter onto home detention.

Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish noted that Auckland had the Merivale Whanau Development Centre, a residential parenting programme for mothers who have been impacted by neglect and abuse.

The centre says: “During their time at Merivale, parents are educated and supported to learn new behaviours and parenting skills that will transform their family life.”

Judge Farish said: “Unfortunately, in Christchurch, we don’t have that.”

The judge had to take a different approach for Reiana Janine Hilton, 35, releasing her on five months’ home detention at a Hoon Hay address, and ordering her to undergo assessment, counselling, and treatment as directed during the detention, and for six months after it ends. That may include a residential alcohol and drug treatment programme.

Hilton is hoping the treatment and counselling she receives will lead to her two youngest children being returned to her from the Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

She will also have to pay back $2281 to the shops she stole from, at $10 a week, and she is disqualified from driving for six months for driving while suspended. She was convicted and discharged for breaching her community work and her bail.

Hilton had admitted six charges of shoplifting – items such as leather jackets, a handbag, rings, household items, and chocolate bars.

Prosecutor Steve Burdes said they were not sophisticated thefts. Hilton operated with a man, who distracted the shopkeepers while Hilton stuffed stolen items into a bag.

Defence counsel Karen Feltham described Hilton as “a complex sort of character” who had grown up without the slightest bit of affection and now had an extensive criminal list. She had taken to stealing to please others, and had then stolen to support her drug habit.

“She was used by people who were older and more sophisticated,” the lawyer said. “She did the grunt work.” Shoplifting had become almost a psychological addiction for her.

“Given her upbringing, it is a wonder she has got this far, quite frankly,” she said.

Judge Farish accepted that the shoplifting was “almost like an addiction” for Hilton. She noted that the woman had gone into one shop and had made legitimate purchases, but had then stolen chocolate bars when she had the chance.

Hilton was not part of a wider gang, and was not stealing to order, she said. She knew that if she did not make positive changes she had no chance of being able to parent her youngest children. “You have got to stop using meth,” said the judge.

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