Scottish blogger raises thousands for Mars bar thief

Campaigners in Scotland have raised over £15,000 after appealing for donations to cover an English shoplifter’s court fine.

An online fundraiser created by Stuart Campbell, editor of Wings Over Scotland, asked readers to contribute towards the “fine and court costs” of shoplifter Louisa Sewell, who stole a pack of Mars bars after losing her benefits.

Ms Sewell’s solicitor, Susie Duncan, had told Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court that her client “was really hungry, had no money for food, and took the lowest value item she could find” – however she was found guilty of shoplifting.

Ms Sewell faced a £73 fine for the theft as well as £150 in court charges, £85 in prosecution costs, a £20 victim surcharge, and 75p compensation paid to the store.

So far, the crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo has raised £15,062 - with the excess to go towards foodbanks and poverty charities in Scotland, including First Base in Dumfries.

Earlier this month, Scottish Legal News reported the Howard League for Penal Reform as saying that, since April in England and Wales, magistrates and judges have been told that they must impose a mandatory “criminal courts charge” of up to £1,200 on anyone convicted of an offence – whatever the defendant’s circumstances might be – on top of other levies such as fines, compensation orders, victim surcharges and costs.

Frances Crook , chief executive of the Howard League said at the time: “Now the law seems hell-bent on exacting charges from rich and poor alike for the privilege – but it is the poor who will find themselves entrenched in their poverty by these criminal charges.

“We do not want to see the return of debtors’ prisons. It is time for an urgent review of this unfair and unrealistic sanction, which is doing nothing to tackle crime and, in all likelihood, is making matters worse.”