A heroin addict who stole money donated to help war heroes has been spared jail.
Biscuit factory worker Karl Ellarby, 29, from Blackpool, was ordered to repay £1,000 after admitting stealing five Poppy Appeal tins.
But the resort’s armed forces champion Coun Derek Robertson today criticised the sentence as “too lenient”.
He said: “The crime does not fit the punishment.
“To steal a poppy tin is absolutely disgusting when they are there for servicemen and their families.”
Blackpool Magistrates’ Court heard father-of-two Ellarby, of Newton Drive, stole five boxes in the space of seven days taking scissors out with him to cut security ties.
Mr Isherwood told magistrates: “The amount one witness said was in the box taken from his shop was around £350.
“It is difficult to estimate however the Crown says it must be around £1,750 in all.
“CCTV pictures showing the offender were published and his name was given to police who arrested him.”
Ellarby told police that he had committed the thefts to fund his habit of using five to ten bags of heroin a day.
Patrick Nelligan, defending, told the court: “This man hangs his head in shame and quite rightly so. This is far worse than a normal theft and was brought on by his drug problem.”
Ellarby also admitted breaching a community order imposed for previous shoplifting offences.
Bench chairman Andrew McVinnie sentenced him to 20 weeks in jail suspended for a year and ordered him to pay £1,000 compensation to the Royal British Legion.
He told the defendant: “To steal these collection boxes in the week before Remembrance is an appalling act. This charity relies heavily on public donations.”
Coun Robertson, speaking after the hearing, called Ellarby’s actions “despicable”.
Coun Robertson said: “I am glad they have caught him and he has been sentenced but the crime does not fit the punishment. It’s too lenient. He should have been given at least three years.”
A Royal British Legion spokesman said: “We were greatly disturbed to hear of the theft of these five poppy collecting tins in Blackpool.
“The loss of funds from these tins would potentially deprive those in the Service and ex-Service community and their families of much needed assistance and support from the Legion, so we are grateful for the award of compensation.”