A WOMAN who damaged items in shops and then tried to get refunds for them has been jailed for 16 weeks.

Christina Rushton, of Leslie Close, Freshbrook, bit the lid of a bottle of engine oil at a garage and then took it to the counter asking for a refund, falsely claiming she had bought it earlier.

And the 32-year-old tried a similar scam by deliberately scratching a set of shelves at a discount store, again seeking her money back – even though she hadn’t bought them.

Rushton, who has 128 previous convictions, was put on a suspended sentence in December after admitting the offences; the first of which took place last March when she bit the oil lid and tried to get the refund, then when she asked for her money back at B and M Stores in August.

But within three weeks of getting a suspended sentence, she had missed three appointments with the probation service, and in January magistrates activated the sentence and jailed her.

The fraudster then got bail saying she wished to appeal as she had medical certificates to explain why she missed the meetings. However, she failed to produce the paperwork and after ruling her evidence “unreliable”’ a judge, sitting with two justices at Swindon Crown Court, upheld the jail term.

Rushton pleaded guilty to criminal damage, three counts of fraud and two of failing to surrender to custody.

Oliver Newman, prosecuting, said on December 6 a district judge at the Magistrates’ Court imposed the jail term, which he suspended for 18 months.

Less than a week later she missed an initiation meeting with probation, then failed to show up a week later and again another 10 days later.

After missing a hearing before the magistrates, she was summoned to court and the jail term was activated, but was bailed days later, promising she had medical evidence showing she was not fit for the hearings.

“The medical evidence was promised but not forthcoming,” Mr Newman said, pointing out it wasn’t given to the probation service, magistrates or Crown Court. He said the day before the third appointment she contacted the probation service to say she was ill with bronchitis.

Tony Bignall, defending, said his client had suffered a tumour in one of her breasts last year, which led to a mastectomy. Because of problems with her benefits he said he she had had to hand over medical documents to them to sort out her housing and council tax payments.

She was then in hospital again over Christmas into the New Year, he said, which is why she missed probation appointments.

But the judge pointed out when she phoned the probation service on December 27 to say she could not attend the following day, she made no mention of being in hospital.

He said: “I am afraid we regard the whole explanation as completely unreliable and reject it.”

He said it was not unjust to activate the order and ruled she must serve the 16-week jail term.