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    Tearful homeless man steals chocolate bars ‘so he can go to prison and get help’

    A tearful homeless man who stole chocolate from a supermarket told a court he committed the crime so he would be sent to prison, where he could receive help.
    Wayne Dillon begged for a custodial sentence at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates, saying he was not receiving the support needed to cope with his heroin and crack cocaine habit outside jail.
     
    But experts have told The Independent the case appears to highlight a worrying new trend.
    Hundreds of drug-users are committing minor crimes in a desperate bid to access rehabilitation services inside, which have been decimated on the outside by austerity cuts, Addiction Dependency Solutions claims.
    Dillon, 39, from Ashton-in-Makerfield, was hauled before the court after walking out of a Tesco with £40 worth of chocolate.
    “He says the only way he can make in-roads is with a prison sentence,” solicitor Nick Woosey said at his hearing on Monday. “It’s quite unusual for a defence solicitor to stand up and say ‘my client wants to go into custody’.”
    Magistrates granted the wish, jailing Dillon for seven weeks.
    “This kind of case is by no means something that is infrequent,” Chris Judge, strategic director with ADS, told The Independent.
    “I wouldn’t like to put a figure on how many cases there are like this but we are hearing of it happening more and more, every week in every part of the country. These are desperate measures by people in desperate situations.
    “As with every public service, addiction and rehabilitation services have suffered massive cuts over the last 10 years and that is impacted on what help can be offered to the people most in need. As ever, it has been the marginalised and the stigmatised who have suffered.”
    Although nationwide figures on cuts to such services are difficult to come by – because money comes from different government departments and is distributed at local authority level – figures show such funding has more than halved in some areas.
    In Bristol, spending on rehabilitation and treatment was slashed from £12.9m in 2013 to just £4.5m this year. Gateshead and Sefton have both cut their budget by 51 per cent in the same period.
    “People see jail as their best option which is false because drugs are so wide spread inside, it is difficult – almost impossible – to go straight once there,” said Mr Judge.
     
    “It becomes a vicious circle.”

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