A serial thief who was jailed and banned from every hospital in the country has been freed from prison by Court of Appeal judges.
Dean Walker, aged 34, of Sycamore Avenue, Rotherham, struck at Sheffield’s Weston Park and Rotherham District General hospitals last autumn.
He already had 99 convictions to his name, including 70 for theft-type offences, many of them committed in Yorkshire hospital canteens.
After admitting theft, burglary and breaching three suspended sentences, he was jailed for 33 months at Sheffield Crown Court in December.
However, three judges in London said the sentence was ‘unlawful’ and cut it to 12 months, allowing Walker to immediately be freed from jail.
Mr Justice Mackay said the problem arose because of the way magistrates sent the case to the crown court, limiting its sentencing power to only a year.
He said it was unclear why the magistrates did it.
Walker was caught after he got into a staff room at Rotherham Hospital to steal a purse and handbag. Some of the contents were never recovered.
He had previously stolen up to £20 in coins from a vending machine at the Sheffield hospital, the judge said.
Walker’s previous offending was mainly shoplifting and stealing from vending machines.
He was given a five-year anti-social behaviour order banning him from hospitals.
But Mr Justice Mackay said: “The powers of the crown court were limited to the powers of the magistrates’ court.
“The maximum sentencing power was six months on each of the two counts and an aggregate not exceeding a year.”
Walker’s asbo is still in force.