A PROLIFIC shoplifter who struck again at city centre shops has been spared jail – at least for now – after a court was told she had made a ‘cry for help’ in The Press.

Magistrates yesterday deferred sentence on Sabina Hansard for six weeks to give her a chance to seek help, with assistance from York parish priest Father Tim Jones, who said he believed she had a compulsion to steal.

But the bench warned her that if she shoplifts again, she will almost certainly end up back in prison. The homeless 51-year-old admitted stealing a dress, necklace, lipliner, polo neck top and reading glasses worth a total of £183.40 from Browns department store in Davygate, and a bangle and silk scarf worth £28 from nearby Laura Ashley.

The thefts happened on Sunday, just a day after a front-page article in The Press reported that Hansard had admitted that everything she was wearing and eating was stolen.

She said she had repeatedly shoplifted in York since leaving prison a week earlier. She claimed then she had been driven back to crime by lack of support and wouldn’t survive otherwise.

Mark Thompson, mitigating in court, said it had been a ‘good step’ for her to go to The Press with a ‘cry for help.’ He said she had acknowledged in the article that admitting to her crimes meant she was at risk of being arrested and jailed yet again.

He said his client had not troubled the courts until 2008, and had led a law-abiding life until “something went wrong”.

Now she was in a vicious circle of offending, going to prison and then re-offending after being released. Mr Thompson said: “It’s a desperate, desperate situation.”

She felt that with benefits not being paid for several weeks after leaving prison, she needed to steal to survive. He said offers to provide accommodation had been made following The Press’s article.

Father Tim, who made headlines around the world in 2009 after saying shoplifting from large national chains was sometimes the best option for many desperate and vulnerable people, said he had been trying to help Hansard, but it seemed to him she had a compulsion to shoplift and may have a personality disorder.

He said there were people willing to help her, by paying for bed and breakfast accommodation in the short term and provide accommodation in the medium term. But he stressed he could not guarantee she would be accompanied 24 hours a day, and would not steal again when left alone.