Whitstable shoplifter jailed for over two years

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A prolific shoplifter has been jailed for over two years after stealing an estimated £1,500 worth of goods from supermarkets in east and north Kent.

After walking into a store, 37-year-old Benjamin Birch would steal high-value items such as joints of meat, boxes of washing detergent, tubs of chocolates, packets of razor blades and bottles of gin, and hide them in bags or in his walking frame before strolling back out.

In many incidents, the extent of Birch’s shoplifting was only realised when staff reviewed their CCTV footage.

Between 29 July and 14 October 2019, Birch targeted seven stores in Birchington, Whitstable, Sandwich, and Faversham, carrying out a total of 20 thefts.

On one occasion, in a supermarket in Bysing Wood Road, Faversham, Birch stole at least 14 beef joints and placed them into shopping bags before walking back out. Although shop staff tried to stop him, he left with almost all of the stolen items.

Birch, of Westmeads Road, Whitstable, admitted the charges and at Canterbury Crown Court on Monday 18 November 2019, he was sentenced to a total of 114 weeks in prison.

Sergeant Lee Thompson of Kent Police, who oversaw the investigation, said: ‘Birch’s propensity for stealing meant the stores were left out of pocket, amounting to losses of hundreds of pounds each.

‘Staff working at the stores reported that he would often intimidate them and claim he had needles he would use against them if they tried to stop him.

‘He was brazen in his approach, ignoring any bans to enter the stores and he showed little concern for the impact his stealing was having, not just on the businesses, but the staff whose time was spent reviewing CCTV and reporting the incidents when it should have been focused on customers instead.

‘I am grateful to the stores and their staff for supporting the investigation. Shoplifting and theft in general is unacceptable and Kent Police will always work to identify those responsible for such crimes to ensure they are brought to justice.’