• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Jail for Modern Art Oxford ‘chewing gum thief’ who spurned chance


Sep 8, 2022

A thief who used a gum-tipped stick to try and fish cash from a donations box spurned the olive branch a judge had offered him.

Judge Michael Gledhill QC told Shofik Townsend that he had effectively signed his own custody warrant, as he jailed the Cowley Road man for 86 weeks on Wednesday.

The judge deferred the would-be treasure seeker’s sentencing last month, when Townsend admitted stealing two bikes and the bungled attempt to steal money from a donations box at Modern Art Oxford.

“When we last met on August 2, I told you in effect you were in last chance saloon and that you were to re-engage with your probation officer and the probation service who were supervising your community order,” Judge Gledhill said yesterday.

“It is quite clear from reading the deferred sentence report and the Turning Point [drug addiction service] report that you haven’t re-engaged.”

The judge added: “I hoped you would take the chance I was giving you. You decided you weren’t going to take it.”

Last month, CCTV was played to the crown court showing Townsend walking into Modern Art Oxford, on Pembroke Street, on April 5.

The granddad, who has almost 100 previous court appearances to his name, could be seen prodding a stick through the slot in the donation box before attempting to inch a cash note to freedom.

He was initially charged with theft until it was pointed out that Townsend failed to profit from his twig-assisted larceny efforts and he had gone away empty-handed.

Townsend, of Cowley Road, Oxford, pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of attempted theft. He also admitted stealing two bicycles. Allegations that he had assaulted PCSOs while they tried to detain him were dropped by the prosecution at the start of his trial in August.

The judge then deferred sentence on conditions that he stay out of trouble, re-engage with the probation service and comply with an existing drug rehabilitation order.

Oxford Mail: Shofik Townsend Picture: TVPShofik Townsend Picture: TVP

Dana Bilan, mitigating in August, said her client had a traumatic childhood and a long-standing drug addiction.

Yesterday, she said he struggled with memory loss. A key worker from mental health charity Mind had often helped him in the past, reminding him of important appointments with probation or drug services.

However, he was in rent arrears for a room at the charity’s Cowley Road facility that had gone unpaid while he was on remand. Those arrears had made it ‘difficult’ for him to engage with the key worker.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward