A THIEF stole a charity box just 11 days after being released from prison for offences including the theft of other collection tins.

Carl Anthony Mason, 30, was branded ‘despicable’ by police and charity leaders. Mason claimed he had taken the collection box for a children’s charity in Blackburn Market to repay the British Legion from whom he stole last year.

Blackburn town centre sergeant, Dave Clarke said: “It’s another disgusting offence by a despicable criminal who continues to use excuse after excuse for stealing from charities and the people who need the money most.

“He did not waste any time and stole the charity box from Blackburn Market on November 25 - just 11 days after being released from prison.

“On his last appearance at Blackburn magistrates he showed remorse and cried before the court and assured them that he was disgusted by his own actions.

“Twelve months later he has committed the same offence in the same kind of circumstances.”

Last November Mason, of Shear Brow, pleaded guilty to stealing Royal British legion collection tins from Gala Bingo, in Ainsworth Street; Blockbuster, in Great Bolton Street; Halifax, in King William Street; Santander, in King William Street, and Boots stores in both Great Bolton Street and in Fishergate, Preston - which resulted in a 26 week prison sentence. One theft took place on Armistice Day.

Since then Mason had been sentenced to another 26 weeks in prison by Preston Magistrates for theft offences and another 10 weeks in August for theft.

On Tuesday, Blackburn Magistrates sentenced him to a further 12 weeks in jail after stealing a collection box for the Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, a charity which helps transport sick children to hospital.

The court heard how Mason claimed he would have given the stolen money to the poppy appeal he stole from last year.

Prosecutor Catherine Allan said it was ‘warped logic’ if Mason was really stealing from one charity to give to another.

Mason pleaded guilty to burglary at Blackburn market, which was closed at the time, and theft of a charity box.

He was seen in the market hall by a member of the Mall staff and detained until police arrived.

The charity box was discovered in the gents toilets where Mason had been found.

Miss Allan said: “He had only recently been released from prison when he committed this offence. When he was arrested he had a pair of scissors on him and in the past he has used these to cut the strings on charity boxes.”

Michael Blacklidge, defending, said: “What he did last November was reprehensible and he still carries the stigma of that.

“As soon as he was arrested he referred to that and expressed remorse.”

Mr Blacklidge said the time Mason had spent out of custody in the last 12 months was just weeks, not months.

“He hoped he would be able to break the cycle following his latest release and had been out for two and a half weeks.

• ABOVE: The video of Carl Mason taking the tin last November in Santander, King William Street 

“The catalyst for this was the tragic death of his ex-girlfriend in a hit and run accident in Preston. He bought a bottle of Jack Daniels and some valium and that was with him for the weekend.”

Gerry Stephens, 74, chair of Blackburn’s Royal British Legion, said: “This thief is disgusting. He has stolen collection boxes for soldiers who have lost their lives and limbs, and now he’s stolen from a children’s charity. He has no sympathy for anybody or any charity. Twelve weeks is not long enough.”

Amanda Homan-Green, from Lucy Air Ambulance, said the national charity provides transfers for critically ill children - from premature babies to children aged 16.

She said: “I think this man is despicable and should be very ashamed of himself.

“Every penny we raise goes towards the transfer of the next critically ill child to another hospital for treatment.”