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Career criminal left Hull church in 'disarray' after breaking in and raiding charity boxes

Stephen Woods has convictions for previous offences dating back more than 20 years


Stephen Woods admitted four offences of burglary and others of fraud and handling stolen goods

(Image: Humberside Police)


A career criminal who started taking drugs at the age of 13 smashed his way into a church before heartlessly stealing money from a collection tin, forcing open and raiding charity boxes and stealing precious items used in services.

Prolific offender Stephen Woods broke in through a window before leaving the church in "disarray" and fleeing by forcing open the church's door. He also broke into a charity shop as part of a series of other offences, Hull Crown Court heard.


Woods, 38, of Towan Close, off Bodmin Road, Bransholme, Hull, admitted four offences of burglary and others of fraud and handling stolen goods. He asked for two offences of burglary to be considered.


enjamin Donnell, prosecuting, said that Woods broke into St James Church, Sutton, Hull, on February 23 by smashing a side window and made an untidy search, leaving documents and items strewn across the floor.

"All the kitchen cupboards were opened as well as drawers within a filing cabinet," said Mr Donnell. "The defendant forced open the money collection tin and stole the contents." About £20 was thought to be inside.


A church warden later said that the church was left in complete "disarray". Woods forced open a charity box that was next to the church's candle memorial stand and he stole its cash contents.

"The defendant had broken the charity box's padlock and had thrown it on the floor," said Mr Donnell. It was thought that Woods had used some sort of tool to break it.


"The defendant had also forced open a cupboard, which was situated to the left of the altar. He stole, from within this cupboard, a gold candle stand, a golf chalice and plate and a silver cup and lid. These are objects used during the church service. They have been used by the church for many years.

"A further collection box with money in it was stolen by the defendant and a charity box for the Children's Society had been emptied of its cash contents by the defendant and thrown onto the bishop's chair next to the altar.

"It is unclear how much cash was contained within these various charity boxes. The defendant made good his escape by forcing open the main church door, causing damage to them."


The money needed for repairs could have been used for the maintenance of the church or for people in need in the community.

Woods and an accomplice broke into the British Red Cross charity shop in Sutton at about 1am on February 26 by removing roof tiles and then climbing in. They caused damage to a plasterboard ceiling by making a hole and climbing through it.

"Once inside, the defendant and his accomplice made an untidy search of the shop and he stole £385 cash from a safe in an upstairs room that he had forced open," said Mr Donnell.

"The defendant and his accomplice exited the shop by using a fire extinguisher and smashing the front shop window, causing damage."


Woods and another man broke into Go Outdoors in Clough Road, Hull, at about 6.30am on March 7 through a side door by forcing up a shutter and breaking the glass in the bottom of the door. Woods stole men's clothes, valued at £4,000, before he and his accomplice made off. The damage to the door was estimated at £1,500.

On March 6, Woods was spotted by police in Bransholme on the day that the Today's Local store in Sutton was broken into and cigarettes were stolen. Woods made off but left behind a rucksack containing packs of cigarettes stolen from the shop.

On August 23 last year, Woods threw two stones at the window of Marks & Spencer at Kingswood retail park before using a pair of crutches to make the hole big enough to allow him to climb inside.

He carried out an untidy search but was not believed to have taken anything. "The defendant left through the broken window," said Mr Donnell.

On August 14, Woods used a woman's bank card to make three purchases, valued at £101, from Euro Fresh. The card and other items had been stolen after her car was broken into.

Woods had convictions for previous offences dating back to 1999, including non-domestic burglaries in October 2009, December 2010, August 2012, June 2015, January and March 2017, and September 2019.


Frances Pencheon, mitigating, said that Woods was introduced to crime by other family members when he was only 11 years old and he had taken drugs since the age of 13. By the age of 16, he had moved on to Class A drugs. He had a drug addiction at the time of the latest offences.

"His life was completely out of control by that point," said Miss Pencheon. Woods claimed that he would repay money to the church and the charity.

He had served prison sentences throughout his life but had a job while on remand in custody. "He is managing to stay drug-free in custody," said Miss Pencheon.

His girlfriend was supporting him and she was willing to help him, the court heard.

Woods was given a two-year suspended prison sentence, six months' drug treatment and 20 days' rehabilitation.


Judge Mark Bury told him: "You have a very poor record for offences of burglary. You have committed house burglaries and you have also committed many commercial burglaries in the past.

"The root of your problems goes back to when you were a child. I am going to give you a chance but you had better not blow it this time."


Source: hulldailymail.co.uk


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