A SHOPPER turned violent and tried to headbutt an assistant when tackled about stealing sweets.

Alert workers at Maryport’s Tesco Express initially kept watch as 29-year-old Gemma Claire Rice browsed in the store at 9pm on June 8.

She selected sweets which CCTV showed her stashing in her bag. She was also directed to a bottle of wine she asked about.

But trouble flared when she was tackled about the sweets and told she shouldn’t be in the store. Screaming and swearing, Rice told one female staff member: “You can’t touch me. I will make you lose your job you stupid bitch.”

“She got right into her face, causing (another worker) to step backwards,” Gerard Rogerson told Carlisle Crown Court. Rice twice tried to headbutt the worker, who took swift action.

“She had had enough. She took told of Miss Rice by the hair and ejected her,” said the prosecutor, who told how an elderly lady had been heading into the store. “She was pulled out of the way outside before Miss Rice was ejected.”

Rice, previously Workington but now of no fixed address, admitted affray. She had been “clearly under the influence”, staggering, not making sense and slurring her words.

Sean Harkin, defending, said Rice’s offending had “slowed down” in recent months. “She is motivated to stay out of trouble,” he said of the mother-of-three. “She is on the eve of her 30th birthday and she wants to leave her criminal offending in her twenties.”

A probation officer told the court of her “complex mental health needs”, also revealing her history of failing to comply with court orders.

“Basically the offender manager describes Miss Rice’s engagement as superficial and poor,” said the officer. “It is very difficult to propose a suitable community disposal at this point in time.”

Recorder Andrew Nuttall admitted he was faced with a “hard choice”. He opted to jail Rice immediately for three months and revoke previously imposed community requirements which would still apply when released.

Any alternative to immediate custody, he concluded, would set Rice up to fail. He told her: “It’s now up to you.”

“I honestly wish that you make good the rest of your life. I hope you do,” added Recorder Nuttall. “If not, you know where you will end up.”