A Warwick man who threatened staff at two stores with a hypodermic needle when they caught him shoplifting has been given a suspended sentence.
During one of the incidents Lee Wykes came into contact with a staff member with the needle, leaving them with an anxious three months before tests could show he had not been infected with anything.
Wykes pleaded guilty to the two offences of theft – but denied two charges of making threats with an offensive weapon and one of wounding.
It was only at a pre-trial hearing at Warwick Crown Court that he pleaded guilty to the two charges of making threats and an alternative offence of assault causing actual bodily harm.
Wykes (38) of Pickard Street, Warwick, was sentenced to 20 months in prison suspended for 12 months after the judge heard he had already spent seven months in custody on remand.
Prosecutor Charles Crinion said that on February 1 last year James Delaney was working at the TK Maxx store on the Leamington Shopping Park when he saw Wykes acting suspiciously.
Wykes was hanging around the handbag section, and then moved on to the jewellery display where he began putting items into his jacket pockets before walking out.
He was challenged by Mr Delaney and a colleague, and as they tried to detain him he pulled out an uncapped hypodermic needle and threatened: “Get the f*** off me or I’ll stab you.”
Wykes dropped four watches he had taken, worth £105, and lunged towards Mr Delaney and his colleague, telling them: “I’m going to stab you.”
As they backed away, he picked up three of the watches and made off on his bike which he had left leaning against the front of the store.
Mr Crinion pointed out: “Mr Delaney says he deals with drug-users all the time, but that this was the first time this had happened to him.”
On April 4 assistant store manager Mark Hutley was on duty at Lidl in Myton Road, Leamington, when he saw Wykes, who he recognised because of a previous incident.
Realising he had been seen, Wykes took a bottle of Bacardi from his jacket and put it back on the shelf.
But as he then left the store, something else he had taken set off an alarm, and Mr Hutley caught up with him just outside and asked him to hand it back.
Wykes pushed him and, gesturing as though he had something in his hand, although Mr Hutley could not see what it was, warned: “I’ll do you with this.”
Mr Hutley stepped back, and Wykes got on his bike and cycled away.
But when he went back into the store, Mr Hutley felt some discomfort, and on rolling up his sleeve he saw a scratch which he said looked like he had had an injection.
His doctor told him to go to hospital where it was confirmed there had been a prick of the skin, and he was given precautionary injections for tetanus and hepatitis, but had to wait three months before tests showed he was in the clear.
Mr Crinion added that Wykes had 75 convictions for 233 offences, mainly for shoplifting, but including a ‘threat with a blade or pointed article’ in 2016 when he was challenged after stealing from a shop.
Nick Devine, defending, said the thefts were committed to support Wykes’s long-standing drug addiction, but he had been in custody for seven months since his arrest, his longest spell inside, ‘and has remained drug-free.’
Sentencing Wykes, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told him: “You are here because last year you were shoplifting, and when people stopped you, you were threatening them with a needle.
“On one occasions, which I accept may have been reckless rather than deliberate, you nicked someone with the needle. That can be very, very frightening for people.
“You have a drug addiction after a very difficult childhood which put you on that road at a very early age.
“I hope now, having been clean for a few months, you should not at your age be going on offending like this. What we’re going to do today is give you some help. But the simplest shoplifting offence will put you in breach.”