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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Spaghetti thief trial cost 10,000
Spaghetti graphic
A shoplifter who cost taxpayers an estimated 10,000 by insisting on trial by jury over the theft of a tin of spaghetti, has been given an absolute discharge.

Steven Phillips, 23, elected to be tried by jury at Newcastle Crown Court after stealing the 92p tin of spaghetti bolognese.

The jury took just 32 minutes to find Phillips, of Toward Road, Sunderland, guilty after the one-day trial.

Blyth Labour MP Ronnie Campbell said the case for penal reforms was now proven, saying the "frivolous matter" had been a "waste of money".


If ever there was a case to stop trial by juries for these frivolous matters, then this is it

Ronnie Campbell, MP

Phillips appeared before the court on Thursday for sentencing where he was given an absolute discharge by Judge Tony Lancaster.

The matter has thrust the issue of jury trials back into the spotlight at a time when legal reform is being considered by Parliament.

During the trial barristers argued over how much the 400g tin of spaghetti cost, with estimates ranging between 72p and 92p.

The jury even heard what Phillips planned to have for his supper on the night he took the can of food from a Co-op store in South Tyneside.

At the time of the trial, Phillips said it was "every person's right to have a trial by jury and I wanted it to be heard in the big court".

Reform proposals

He was able to elect crown court trial as theft is classed as an either-way offence which means it can be dealt with summarily by magistrates, or by a judge and jury.

Mr Campbell said: "The fact he got an absolute discharge just tops this off.

"What a waste of money. If ever there was a case to stop trial by juries for these frivolous matters, then this is it."

Proposals for reform based on a review of the criminal justice system by Lord Justice Auld will be included in the Queen's Speech in November.

If the full Bill goes through, it could become law by the summer of 2003.

The Auld report includes a recommendation that people accused of crimes for which the maximum prison sentence is two years or less should no longer be able to choose how their case is dealt with.


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26 Apr 02 | England
21 Jan 02 | UK Politics
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