A Northern Ireland man who admitted stealing more than £200 worth of coffee, ham and bacon from two stores was shoplifting “on an epic scale”, a High Court judge has said.

29-year-old Hugh Thompson, is also accused of taking cheese worth £23 from another supermarket during a series of raids.

Mr Justice McLaughlin said: “We will be having a food shortage if he continues like that. This isn’t stealing to eat, this is just stealing to operate as a retailer of some kind.”

Mr Thompson faces a number of shoplifting charges on dates between September 2011 and last month. The court was told he was recognised on CCTV by a security guard who went to school with him.

In November, he is alleged to have gone into a store on the city’s Castlereagh Road and stole £108 worth of coffee and bacon.

Barry Valentine, prosecuting, said another £94.70 worth of coffee and packs of ham were taken from a Spar shop in Limavady on 24 February.

The same day he is alleged to have stolen cheese to the value of £23.85 from another retailer in the town.

Applying for bail, counsel for Mr Thompson said he had pleaded guilty to the food and coffee thefts.

As he sought an explanation for the accused’s motives, the judge asked: “Did he think there was going to be a nuclear attack or something, and he was stocking up the larder?”

His barrister replied: “It’s beyond me.”

Mr Justice McLaughlin described the offences as “little short of ridiculous, outrageous”.

He added: “This is shoplifting on an epic scale. Two visits to two shops and he walks out with over £200 worth of coffee and bacon.”

The judge noted Mr Thompson’s admissions and predicted further offences if he was released.

Refusing bail, he said: “There is no way to control this man’s thieving.”

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