Jason Webster, 42, of Ascot Terrace, Burmantofts, stole three women’s handbags from various food and drink establishments in the town, along with purchases worth over £300 from bank cards stolen, Leeds Crown Court heard this week.
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The court how Webster had been convicted on 65 theft charges since 1994.
On December 16, 2021, a complainant sat having lunch in the Kirkgate Market food hall in Leeds, having placed her handbag – containing her car keys and purse – on the back of her chair.
Having heard a voice shout “run”, she saw Webster with his bag – she then chased him and managed to catch him with the help of security guards.
The court heard how Webster tried to explain he found the bag lying on the ground – the victim asked how that couldn’t be true if he was going broke.
On December 29, 2021, a victim was in the Hedley Verity pub in Leeds city center when she put her handbag on the back of her chair. She later noticed her bag was missing and after alerting staff it was discovered that CCTV showed Webster taking her purse from the back of her chair.
On January 13, 2022, a victim was sitting in a pub having dinner when she put her handbag on the floor next to her chair. She would soon notice that the bag, which contained an iPhone and her purse, was missing. Again after consulting CCTV, Webster was found to have accessed the bag through a gap under a covid barrier, before passing it to another man who hid it under his coat, and the two escaped.
As well as the thefts, Webster was also found guilty of 11 counts of fraud, each relating to the use of strangers’ bank cards for £30 purchases.
Mitigating for Webster, Rukshanda Hussain told the court: “He has a drug addiction – he has to quit this habit or the offense will continue.
“He’s getting older and his sentences will get longer if he continues like this.”
Webster had pleaded guilty to robbery, 11 counts of fraud and failure to surrender. The court also heard that the offenses took place during the period of the suspended sentence for previous crimes.
Sentencing Webster, recorder Anesh Pema said: “The victims of the robberies are people who wandered around in their daily lives.”
Referring to his claims that he found the bag on the ground during the first offence, Judge Pema said: “Your answer was as unconvincing as it could have been.
“You are a career criminal. It’s due to drugs but the number of offenses is significant.”
He sentenced Webster to a total of 25 months in prison.