A man was attacked by members of the public after they saw an appeal for a poppy tin theft, a court has heard.

Leon Cowley, 31, used scissors to steal a poppy collection box from a petrol station and has been told to pay £100 to the Royal British Legion.

Cowley said he had been recognised in public and attacked after details of the theft from the Blackhorse Garage in Sheen Road, Richmond, were circulated by the media.

In CCTV footage released by police, Cowley, of Chaucer Avenue, Richmond, could be seen distracting the shop assistant before he swiped the box, which he said contained £7, and hid it in his jacket on October 27.

He visited the garage earlier that day but returned and stole the British Legion tin, filled with cash for servicemen and women.

Cowley, who admitted theft, was also given a 12-month community order with a 12-month probation requirement and thinking skills program when he was sentenced at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court on Monday, November 25.

The punishment was for a separate offence, after Cowley admitted taking a mobile phone from a Carphone Warehouse in Fulham Palace Road on November 8, which he later sold for £290 to electronic goods store Cex.

Passing the sentence, magistrate Bukky Okunade expressed her distaste towards the poppy tin theft.

She said: “It was a particularly unpleasant crime as you know, with an element of planning as well because you took the scissors with you.

“Theft of charity money intended for those who fought for our country is particularly unpleasant.”

Tony Massiah, defending Cowley, said he was very sorry for his “distasteful” actions.

He said: “He accepts that what he did was wrong.

“He accepts that what he did was totally unacceptable and will never do something like this in the future.”

Speaking outside the courtroom, Cowley, who was wearing a checked shirt, jeans and trainers, said: “I’m just sorry and that’s it.”