A MAN caught stealing Italian ham and cheese from Aldi told a court he stole as ‘only criminals get help’ when you have no money.

John Ryan, aged 55, from Irlam, stole items from Aldi, Home Bargains and Asda at Birchwood Shopping Centre on March 23.

His haul also included Country Life butter, a jar of Nescafe coffee, meat and deoderant.

When asked to explain his actions at Halton Magistrates Court on Thursday, Ryan said: “My 22 year relationship fell apart.

“I ended up homeless.

“I went eight weeks without benefit.

“I had nowhere to turn to, so I turned to stealing to eat.

“I’m sorry.

“If you’re not a criminal nobody is there to help you.

“If you’re a citizen, you just get fobbed off.”

Ryan, who has drug problems, pleaded guilty to three counts of theft.

The court heard he has 19 previous convictions for 38 offences, including theft, although he was last in court in 1996.

He was given a 12 month conditional discharge.