A judge told a woman who stole a bottle of bubbly that he "didn't know people on benefits liked Champagne".

Mum-of-two Nichola Vout was caught on CCTV stashing a £25 bottle in her bag, before leaving a Co-op store and jumping in a car.

The 33-year-old admitted the theft after being stopped by police following the offence in Stockton, Teesside on 3 August.

Vout told Teesside Magistrates Court last week in mitigation that a long-term relationship had recently ended in ugly circumstances, leading to delays waiting for the couple's joint benefits claim to end - and for her solo claim to start.

But Judge Gary Garland slammed the shoplifter for what he dubbed a "fairly pathetic little offence".

He said: "It seems to me you have gone on a thieving mission and been caught."

"I didn't know that people who were on benefits were into Champagne?", he added.

The court ordered her to pay £85 costs and a £20 charge.

Judge Garland said: "That's £105 for a bottle of Champagne you didn't even drink. It has been an expensive afternoon out."

Since the theft, Vout has been barred from every Co-op in Cleveland.

In May, sharp-eyed Judge Garland rumbled a couple who claimed they were victims of disability benefit when he caught them speeding on their mobility scooters during a court break.

Former Royal Artillery gunner David Hughes, 58, and his partner Wendy ran up a bill of over £10,000 after refusing to pay British Gas for over a decade.

Hughes told the court that he was registered blind and could not read documents sent to him.

Then his partner collapsed in Blackpool Magistrates Court with apparent breathing problems and paramedics had to be called in.

But Judge Garland revealed that during a break in court proceedings he came across Hughes and his partner.

"They were speeding along the footpath in their electric buggies both of them smoking cigarettes," he the court.

He added: "Mr Hughes' partner seemed fit and healthy. When they saw me they immediately slowed down."

The court granted British Gas a warrant to enter the couple's home to install a prepayment meter.