Dundee toothbrush thief begs to go to prison after being sanctioned by DWP

Tesco in Kingsway West

A woman has been jailed for six months after begging to go to prison — saying she would receive more help inside than from benefits chiefs.

Sheriff Alastair Brown said it was with “considerable reluctance” he would impose a prison sentence on Andrea Westwater, 35, of Ancrum Court, after he was told she had no money because she had been sanctioned by the DWP.

At Dundee Sheriff Court, Westwater admitted stealing electric toothbrushes, cosmetics and toiletries from Tesco, Kingsway West Retail Park, on Wednesday.

Solicitor advocate Jim Laverty told the court his client had stolen the items after she “gave up hope”.

Mr Laverty claimed Westwater had not been able to claim the benefits she was entitled to because she did not have any ID. He added that the 35-year-old felt she would receive better support in prison than on the outside.

Sheriff Brown said he understood the need for the DWP to check claimants’ identities but added: “I do have concerns that it has not been possible to set up arrangements for this lady to obtain the benefits to which she is entitled.

“I hope Mr Laverty is right that as a convicted prisoner she would be able to access help more effectively than if she were a free agent.”

A DWP spokeswoman said she could not comment on specific cases but insisted there was “no way” a vulnerable individual would be turned away, adding that anyone without ID would be asked “biographical questions” or a third party, such as a GP, would be contacted.