A court recorder has given a heroin-addict mum the opportunity to get clean rather than sending her to prison.
The woman, who cannot be named, was in court on six counts of shoplifting. She pleaded guilty and asked for a similar offence to also be taken into consideration.
The mum of two, who is in her 20s, had taken her baby with her on some of her shoplifting sprees.
Her barrister, Paul Bitmead, told Plymouth Crown Court that she had been in prison for four weeks and away from her children, and had led a 'rather depressing young life ruined by drugs'.
Her sister, herself a former heroin addict, was looking after her children with the approval of Social Services, and told the court that she had beaten heroin herself, had been clean for 30 months, and that she knew her sister had now reached this point in her life and wanted to be free of drugs too.
Recorder Donald Tait told the woman: "You could have no complaint if I sent you to prison today. You have had chance after chance after chance and have failed to keep appointments with people trying to help you.
"You take the youngest kid with you shoplifting - what a life that is."
Of her older child, Mr Tait said: "It would be a tragedy if his future was spoiled by you."
He bailed the mum to live with her parents, with her children being cared for by her sister. He also imposed a 9pm-8am tagged curfew, and twice-weekly drugs tests and assessment for a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement Order.
He told her that if she relapsed or failed to comply, he would have no choice but to imprison her.
"Until you make a decision to change your life, nothing will change," he said.
What do you think about this? The right sentence?