A CAREER thief has again escaped a prison sentence despite starting to steal three weeks after her last court appearance.

Jennifer Donlan, aged 35, of Northolt Court, Padgate, was let off a jail term when appearing at Chester Crown Court on March 24 this year, after befriending a pensioner and stealing cash from his wallet.

Warrington Crown Court heard on Thursday how the drug addict was on the rob again by April 14, pilfering £200 worth of meat from Tesco Express on Manchester Road.

Owen Edwards, prosecuting, said she then went to McColls, also in Warrington, taking £105 worth of cosmetics and chocolate.

Donlan was arrested on April 23 after police recognised her from CCTV footage.

The court heard she told officers she was intending to sell the items as she had no money because benefits had not been paid.

Recorder S J Killeen said he moved out of sentencing guidelines set by Government to give Donlan a final chance.

“It seems to me you have stayed away from drugs,” said the judge.

“You rely on support from your partner who also consumes drugs.

“The time has come when I take the view, of most judges, to protect the public, to send you to custody for a significant time.

“I'm going to draw back from that but the sentence I'm going to impose is severe.

“You need to understand that if you commit any further offences, another judge will look at this sentence, and activate it.”

The defendant was sentenced to 11 months in prison, suspended for two years.

She will also be under supervision for two years, and undergo a drug treatment programme for 12 months.

Donlan has 44 previous convictions for 154 offences, the majority for theft and fraud.

In 2005 she was sentenced to 42 months in prison for robbery.

The court heard there has been a 'lack of compliance' with probation service since Donlan was given a community order in March.

Sarah Griffin, defending, said there had been 'some improvements' in the defendant's drug use.

Ms Griffin said that after Donlan was released from custody after being on remand in 2013, she moved in with her mother, who despite having breast cancer started part time work to fund her daughter living with her.

Ms Griffin added benefits not being paid was 'not an excuse', but 'would help explain' why Donlan began stealing once more.