Chorley thief Lee Montague is given reprieve by judge after getting a job

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A thief who previously hit the headlines after setting up a “cottage industry” stealing tools from a DIY store and selling them to second hand shops has avoided jail for a new string of shoplifting offences.

Lee Montague is a prolific offender but had kept out of trouble for a whole decade until a crime spree in June 2017, Preston Crown Court was told.

Crown Court

Crown Court

Up until last year the 48-year-old had managed to avoids the courts since 2008 when he gained “employment and stability”.

But after returning to taking drugs he lost his job and his life “spiralled”.

Montague, of Gloucester Road, Chorley, was given a suspended sentence in April 2017 after the string of tool thefts, and for another offence of taking his son’s partner’s car without permission and crashing it into another car while looking at his phone – causing £5,000 damage.

The defendant was still subject to a two year suspended jail term, suspended for two years, when he went on to commit a further string of thefts from supermarkets in Chorley this year.

The court heard on June 14 he stole two bottles of vodka, which were worth £74, from Asda.

Five days later, on June 19, he stole three items of gentleman’s clothing worth £75 from The Outlet.

On June 29 he stole two bottles of whiskey, said to be worth £110, from Asda.

Montague appeared in court six months ago and pleaded guilty to the three theft offences.

But the judge deferred his sentence until now.

The court is entitled to delay passing sentence for up to six months in order to have regard to the offender’s conduct after conviction or any change in his or her circumstances, including the extent to which the offender has complied with any requirements imposed by the court.

Judge Beverley Lunt heard since the offences Montague had taken up employment, and had turned his life around.

She imposed a 12 month conditional discharge for the thefts and a rehabilitation activity requirement for the breach of the previous sentence.