‘STARVING’ homeless men were forced to steal food while living on the street in Bournemouth, a court has heard.

Filip Zwiercan, 36, and Stephen Smith, 42, admitted stealing chocolate and meat from Waitrose in Christchurch on March 2 this year.

Zwiercan, who is from Poland, also admitted a second charge of shoplifting chocolate from Asda in Poole on February 24.

But prior to being sentenced, magistrates heard that both men were “desperate” to eat.

Mitigating for Smith, duty solicitor James Moore said: “At the time of this offence, Mr Smith was homeless and without income.

“This is not a sophisticated offence.

“It is a desperate offence of two individuals who cannot feed themselves.”

He said that Smith is now living in Hope House, Bournemouth, a charity which offers supported housing to rough sleepers.

“These are men who cannot help themselves because they are starving,” Mr Moore said.

He added that the theft offence earlier this month is the last recorded against either of the men, who are both now in stable accommodation.

Smith has 42 convictions for 64 offences, many of which were committed because of his living situation and drug addiction, Mr Moore said.

Mitigating for Zwiercan, Harvey Withecombe said: “My client has been in the UK for about two years.

“Things were going well for him here – he was in employment, but unfortunately he lost his job because his contract came to an end.

“He ended up homeless and living on the street.

“He then lost his ID card, which prevented him from applying for benefits.”

However, Zwiercan’s card was handed in to the Polish embassy by a good Samaritan, he said, and the defendant is staying with a friend while he looks for work.

“He no longer has any reason to go out and steal property, and he hasn’t,” Mr Withecombe said.

“He has got no other issues with alcohol or drugs.

“The only issue he did have, which was the reason he committed the offences, is no longer there.”

Both men were sentenced to a 24-month conditional discharge and fined at Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court.