POLICE swooped at Chichester’s Sainsbury’s store to recover a stolen pedigree spaniel.
Tony Castle, 20, a traveller of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods at Chichester Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (November 28).
He was caught after contacting the owner and attempting to sell the dog back for £350 in the car park.
The pedigree King Charles spaniel was stolen from outside Francesca Tingley’s West Wittering home on June 23 when she let it out between 11.30am and 11.50am.
Castle, who is self-employed as a cleaner, was fined £510 pounds and given a 12-month community order of 135 hours’ unpaid work.
Criticising the sentence, he said: “It seems a bit ridiculous. I was out of pocket.
“I’ve given it back to the same woman. If I didn’t ring the woman back and give the dog back, the woman would never have got her dog back.
“I gave the dog back and that’s what’s got me into trouble.”
Prosecuting, Kevin Thomson said after the spaniel went missing, posters were put up around the community with a picture.
Days later, Mrs Tingley received a call from a man saying he had seen the poster and someone had tried to sell the dog to him. She was told the dog was with an Irishman and he wanted £350 for it.
“She was so desperate to get the dog back that she was willing to pay the price,” said Mr Thomson.
They agreed to meet at Sainsbury’s car park, in Westhampnett Road, Chichester, to make the exchange, but Mrs Tingley contacted the police, who were waiting and arrested Castle, along with a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man.
However, no charges were pressed against the other two men.
Defending, Charlotte McLeod said Castle was offered the dog for sale and bought it for £50.
He then offered to sell it back for £350.
“This is where it goes wrong,” she said. “Rather than giving the dog back straight away, he foolishly offers to sell back the dog.
“He is therefore handling stolen goods at that stage, because he knows the dog is stolen.”
The court heard Castle bred, bought and sold dogs throughout the country.
“The owner has got the dog back,” said Ms McLeod. “She’s not lost out financially in the end, which is the main thing.
“She was more worried about getting the dog back. Mr Castle has pleaded guilty today. He didn’t honestly believe he had done anything wrong.”