The woman “became suspicious” after refusing to give paranoid schizophrenic Christopher Turner 20p for food outside the shop then seeing him leave with the sweets.
Prosecutor Peter Bettany told Chesterfield Magistrates Court heard how she followed Turner through the town centre “shouting” at him to stop - then reported the incident to passing police officers.
Turner’s solicitor Annis Rowlands told how the 36-year-old had experienced a gap in his benefits and as a vulnerable person had “money taken from him”.
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She said: “Mr Turner is a gentleman with complicated mental health problems.
“He asked for 20p and was seen taking the M&Ms. It wasn’t sophisticated - he was just hungry.”
Turner, of Chestnut Court, Cromford, admitted theft.
Magistrates gave him a six-month conditional discharge, a £22 victim surcharge and £85 court costs.