'A particularly nasty offence': Leeds crooks stole HGV trailer full of medical wipes at height of Covid-19 pandemic

Two men who stole almost £10,000 worth of medical wipes from the back of a lorry as the country was in the second Covid-19 lockdown have been sent to prison.

By Tony Gardner
Saturday, 30th October 2021, 4:45 am

Steven Scarth and Rory Middleton carried out the offence at a time when there was an "unprecedented demand" for the items in hospitals due to the health crisis.

A judge who locked up the pair described the theft as a "particularly nasty offence".

Leeds Crown Court heard how the uncle and nephew drove from Leeds to a lorry park in Wolverhampton to commit the offence on December 3 last year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Leeds Crown Court

Ayman Khokhar, prosecuting, said a lorry transporting 3,040 canisters of medical wipes, worth £9,868, from Northampton to Dublin had been parked overnight.

Mr Khokhar said the wipes were used for cleaning medical equipment in hospital.

He said: "At that time in December there was unprecedented demand for them in the fight against Covid-19."

A member of the public contacted the police when he became suspicious of the defendants as they loaded the canisters into their van.

The man also followed Scarth and Middleton in his car when the van was driven onto a motorway.

Read More

Read More
Man jailed over cannabis farm where 500 plants were found growing at house in Se...

He gave the registration number to officers who then boxed the van in on the motorway as they were heading back home.

Scarth had been driving the van and Middleton was the front seat passenger.

The van had been fitted with false plates.

Scarth refused to comment during an interview.

Middleton denied the offence. He claimed Scarth, his uncle, had asked him to go for a drive with him.

Middleton also claimed he had been asleep and did not know anything about the stolen canisters.

The court heard Middleton's phone was analysed and it revealed he had also travelled to Wolverhampton the previous day and visited the same lorry park.

Mr Khokhar said it was evidence of the offence being carefully planned.

The managing director of the company which manufactured the wipes provided a victim statement to the court.

He described how people had been profiteering from the sale of wipes online.

He said the company sold the canisters to hospitals and medical institutions for £2.57 each but they had been selling online for as much as £25 each.

He added: "Many people are looking to exploit the situation by making large profits from the sale of the items no matter how much we try to stop this abuse."

The prosecutor said Scarth went on to commit a further theft offence while on bail on July 29 this year.

He entered the Boots store at Bramley Shopping Centre and tried to leave without paying for £300 worth of goods.

Scarth was detained by a member of staff and arrested when police officers arrived.

Scarth, 38, of Swinnow Walk, Swinnow, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, having no licence and having no insurance.

Middleton, 24, of Springfield Lane, Morley, pleaded guilty to theft.

Marta Alnaes, mitigating for Scarth, said the defendant committed the offences to fund his addiction to heroin and crack cocaine.

She said Scarth had been addicted to class A drugs for ten years.

At one stage he managed to beat the addiction but relapsed due to the lack of support available to him during the pandemic.

Felicity Hemlin, for Middleton, said he had also struggled with drug addiction and had been ordered to take part in the offence by dealers he owed a debt to.

Ms Hemlin said Middleton had stayed out of trouble since his arrest.

She added: "To send him to prison now would not only ruin his life but would be unlikely to protect the public in the future."

Scarth was jailed for 12 months and Middleton was jailed for ten months.

Recorder Jacques Algazy QC told the defendants he felt unable to suspend the sentence.

He said: "It is too serious. The offence is a particularly nasty one."