Look At It This Way - November 13, 2015

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There was a bit of a to-do in court a few weeks back after a local woman, a drug dependent serial shoplifter, won the Lottery.

She had won £250,000 on a National Lottery scratch card. I was made to feel pretty gorgeous myself as a mock millionaire for a day on a National Lottery press stunt some years back. There’s nothing like a giant seven figure cheque to make you stand out in a crowd.

Our shoplifter’s win had been confirmed two days BEFORE her latest crime spree, on licence having served eight months in jail.

In spite of being banned from every Boots in the country, she nicked £514 in perfume from the Lytham branch – and shoes and clothes worth £377 from Marks and Sparks.

The court case was one of those ever-so-Blackpool stories. Court reporters yearn for such as they sit through hours of dross, trying not to make eye contact with the socially woefully inadequate who shuffle out to reappear through revolving doors weeks later.

Take the one-man crime wave dubbed the Blight of Blackpool by magistrates this week, a gift of a headline for the reporter covering the 300th court appearance of a man who’s landed taxpayers with at least £400k in court costs. He’s 56, heading towards his 400th conviction, and got 42 days for his latest offence.

He has “alcohol issues”. So have I each time I read something such as this.

Crime shouldn’t pay, but it would have worked out cheaper for society to give him 200 grand a few years back and tell him to get the best rehab money can buy. Abroad, ideally.

Actual physical addiction to drug or drink is often the least of it. It’s the psychological addiction, the associations, that’s hard to break, the lifestyle, the cycle of theft, the last prevailing sense of purpose to each day, in the company of others bent on destroying minds, bodies, all who love them.

This country’s shameful lack of investment in proper rehab, sustained support, to turn broken lives round, is the ultimate false economy.

We’ve got kids picking up the pieces for parents who misuse drugs or drink in Blackpool. Children who actually blame themselves for what’s happening.

I know because I work for a charity which helps them – whole families – because you can’t pick ’n’ mix when it comes to addiction. I know what we could do with a £250k lottery win – the lottery has already funded some of our schemes.

This brings me back to that serial shop lifter – and her £250k lottery win. She’s only 30-something. Wouldn’t it be great if she used it to give herself and her kids a better life, a brighter future?

I don’t buy into the mawkish sentiment of John Lewis’ Old Man on the Moon Christmas TV advert because too many live in a parallel universe right here on Earth – amidst all the spending and self-indulgence and skewed perspective.

Our shoplifting lottery winner should stop taking the drugs that make her feel ‘invisible’ – as she told the court – and open her eyes to what she’s doing to those she loves and who love her. Her children.

It is not too late to change. It never is. So welcome to the second chance lottery. Try walking a mile in their shoes, gorgeous. They don’t have to be Jimmy Choo’s, even now you’ve got the cash to splash – if you haven’t already.

Give your kids a Christmas they – and you – will remember for all the right reasons. Give them their mum...

Clean water is worth paying for

My own mum saw red the other day after hearing that water compo cheques had been paid to people in arrears with United Utilities.

Why not just give them a credit against the amount owed, she said?

It seemed a fair point but all credit to United Utilities for seeing the bigger picture. They pointed out that all customers, including in arrears, incurred extra costs for electricity or buying water.

A spokesman said: “What would be unfair is for us to penalise people who are struggling on tight budgets or low incomes.”

Hopefully, the crisis – and we’ve yet to know precisely what contaminated our water supply for so long – may have reminded us all of the real value of having clean water on tap.

It’s worth paying for a privilege that so many others will never take for granted.