Theft of Help for Heroes tins despicable says Para's mother

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A THIEF who stole collecting tins for the Help the Heroes appeal has been criticised by the mother of Doncaster paratrooper Ben Parkinson, the most severely injured survivor of the war in Afghanistan.

Karl Stevens, 31, tried to steal two collection tins containing 21.89 in change which had been donated by shoppers at a branch of the Co-op supermarket in Sheffield city centre.

Magistrates in the city branded his offences "nasty, mean and beyond belief", but gave the 31-year-old six months to clean up his act after he pleaded guilty to theft and attempted theft.

The mother of South Yorkshire paratrooper Ben Parkinson, 26, who lost both legs in Afghanistan in 2006 in a landmine explosion which also broke his back, hips and ribs, said Stevens's crimes were "despicable". Diane Dernie, 53, from Doncaster, said: "This lad wouldn't last five minutes in the Army. You see so many young boys joining up and going out to the front line. They make the decision they are going to do something positive with their lives – unlike this toerag."

Sheffield Magistrates' Court heard Stevens, of Racecommon Road, Barnsley, was seen in the Co-op supermarket in Pinstone Street in Sheffield on October 19 pulling out a pair of scissors and cutting elastic cords which secured two charity boxes to the checkout.

David Marshall, prosecuting, said Stevens put a box containing 12.27 down his waistband before cutting the cord on a second box which contained 9.62.

Matthew Shepherd, defending, said former heroin addict Stevens had not been in trouble for more than a year.

Deferring sentence for six months to give Stevens a chance to straighten himself out, presiding magistrate Paul Cuttell said: "I think you should be aware that were we sentencing today, you would have been going to prison.

"These are nasty, mean offences. To steal from two charity boxes for that particular charity is really beyond belief."