A prolific charity box thief who has spent years stealing from good causes is turning over a new leaf and has been donating his benefits cash to a hospice where his mother is dying, a court was told.
Ex-heroin addict Carl Anthony Mason (33) whose past victims have been the terminally ill, could have been locked up for the seventh time when he appeared before Burnley magistrates for yet another thieving spree.
But he was allowed to keep his liberty after the Bench was told there had been a “remarkable change” in his life and he was now drug-free, with responsibilities and spare money. Mason, who now describes his pilfering ways as “disgraceful”, is also facing chemotherapy, for what his solicitor described as “the worst type of hepatitis.”
The defendant, now of Mayfield Close, Preston, was being sentenced after he struck again at Labrookes in Parker Lane, Burnley, on February 18th, five days later at Premier Store in Preston and then at All Fresh grocers in Burnley, on March 9th.
The defendant, until recently of Hobart Street, Burnley, had recently admitted three counts of theft of charity boxes. He received eight weeks in prison, suspended for a year and must pay £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.
The court was told he had been caught on CCTV each time and one box had about £50 in it. The betting shop box was for the charity Ladbrookes in the Community and tin at All Fresh grocers was collecting funds for a local mosque.
Mason has almost 120 offences, almost 50 of them for theft, on his record and his past targets have included good causes collecting for sick children and injured soldiers. He has already been to jail six times.
Last December, Mason was back in court when patients at Pendleside Hospice, Reedley, as well as the Poppy Appeal again, became the latest victims of his shameless actions.
The jobless father-of-three had pinched five more boxes in the Preston and the Burnley areas, days after being freed from custody, while on licence and subject to a community order.
In the past, Mason has also helped himself to charity boxes for Marie Curie and Dogs for the Disabled. Last October, he received his fifth prison term when he was given 12 weeks for taking a collecting tin for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital from the Queen Victoria Pub in Burnley, on September 28th.
At the latest hearing, the justices were told how Mason committed the most recent offences after he was released from custody and found himself on the streets and with no money after squatters had moved into his home. He had started using heroin again.
Probation officer Peter Slater told the court: “There has been a substantial change in his life. He tells me he has been entirely drug-free for six weeks.”
Mr Slater said Mason had moved to Preston to be with his father, as his mother was terminally ill.