A 26-YEAR-OLD Polish woman with five children has been spared prison after admitting stealing purses from elderly shoppers.
Romona Markowska - who had her first child when she was just 13 - had breached a conditional discharge for a shoplifting offence in Sheffield when she stole purses from two women shopping in Huddersfield, the town's magistrates heard yesterday.
The case highlighted the menace of East European thieves stalking Huddersfield streets.
Markowska had also been cautioned by North Yorkshire Police last year after a purse theft there.
She was spared jail by the magistrates, but given a 12-month supervision order which includes 100 hours unpaid work and she has also been banned from Huddersfield town centre for 12 months.
She must also pay £43 costs.
Chairman of the magistrates, Mrs A Walker, told Markowska: "We believed this was a planned activity. You have now been convicted in both South and West Yorkshire.
"We take the view that you targeted two elderly, vulnerable victims - one in the company of a young child.
"If you breach any of these conditions you will be brought back to court and custody will be inevitable."
Mr Dave Mackay, prosecuting, said: "There is a prevalence of Eastern European immigrants coming to Huddersfield to steal.
"It's very much the Crown's case that this defendant came here for that sole purpose.
"As a family the income is £550 a week and it is the Crown's view that the motivation for the offences was simply greed and nothing else."
But Charles Ainley, defending, said Markowska was temporarily separated from her husband at that time and needed money for her children.
He said part of the income was from his work as a mechanic and the rest was benefits and she was desperate for money to clothe and feed her children aged from 14 to two.
"That was the motivation," he said. "She needed the money."
He said the family were now reconciled and are living at Arncliffe Terrace in Bradford.