ONE of the country's most prolific shoplifters has been jailed for 16 months and banned from Bolton town centre after being convicted of his 521st offence.

Harry Hankinson, aged 65, of Kingsley Street, Halliwell, who has now racked up a total of 236 convictions and 521 offences, 426 of which are theft, has also been slapped with an anti-social behaviour order barring him from entering Bolton town centre.

Today's conviction related to seven thefts in February and March this year.

Bolton Crown Court heard that in his latest shoplifting spree he attempted to steal luxury goods, including a designer watch, along with purses and a handbag from Selfridges in Manchester.

He also attempted to take more than £450 of alcohol from supermarkets Aldi and Tesco as well as trying to make off with more than £100 of meat from Sainsbury's.

Magistrates had bailed him on March 6, only for him to be arrested the next day after being caught with £335 of perfume at House of Fraser in Manchester.

Questioning the decision to bail Hankinson, Judge Peter Davies remarked: "What on earth did they think he was going to do when they bailed him?"

Defence barrister Robert Elias told the court that Hankinson's offending started after a head injury in the 1970s and that his client had told him that doctors suggested there may be a link between that injury and his compulsion to steal, but there was nothing concrete.


He informed the court that one previous method used in an attempt to curtail his offending involved magistrates keeping the 65-year old in court during shop opening hours, to which Judge Davies responded: "Well he's not coming in here every day."

Dealing with the terms of the ASBO, which will last for two years, Judge Davies told Hankinson that he was barred from entering Bolton town centre, referring specifically to Morrisons in Mornington Road and the Co-op shops in Brownlow Way and Chorley Old Road.

He added: "You are also barred from entering any retail space in the Greater Manchester area if asked to leave by the manager."

In passing sentence, Judge Davies described Hankinson as "an individual that I have never experienced in all my life, both in the bar and sitting on the bench.

"You have accumulated 426 offences for theft from shops - let's not call this shoplifting - it is theft, it is dishonesty.

"You are a pest and you keep on coming back for more. Everything that has been tried has failed.

"I think there is no other way of protecting traders and the public and of making sure that you don't commit offences than locking you up."

Jailing the pensioner for 16 months, Judge Davies added: "Short-term hasn't worked. This is exceptional, this is your occupation."