A teenager who splashed the cash on the high life after stealing thousands from the till of a butchers shop where he worked, has been spared jail.
Zachary Byrne, 19, took between £300 and £500 a week from the till over a three month period, a court was told.
Burnley Crown Court heard Byrne, who had been offered the job by close family friends, then blew the money on meals out, Manchester nightclubs, presents for his girlfriend and cocaine, the Rossendale Free Press reports.
When Byrne was later interviewed by police, he was asked ‘so basically you have been living the high life?’ and he replied ‘yes’.
The former Burnley College student, of Goodshaw Fold Close, Loveclough, pleaded guilty to theft in the course of his employment at the butchers in Crawshawbooth.
He was sentenced to 12 weeks in a young offenders institute, suspended for 12 months with supervision, ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid work and pay £7,500 compensation.
Stephen Parker, prosecuting, told the court how owners Geoff and Paula Riley noticed ‘irregularities in their accounting’ which had reached a ‘crisis point’ by August 2014.
Mr Parker said the Riley’s regarded Byrne as a ‘trustworthy person having known him for many, many years’ and ‘discounted the fact the problems might be down to theft’.
The court was told Byrne had a ‘reluctance’ to wear the standard apron which didn’t allow staff to access their pockets underneath.
Mr Parker said by Autumn 2014 the Rileys were ‘literally at war with each other’ because they thought the money losses were their fault.
Byrne was caught in the act by two female staff members while the Rileys were away on holiday, the court heard.
He was spotted stealing money from the till on two occasions after voiding transactions and ripping up the receipts.
Mr Parker said when he was confronted he ‘broke down’ with his head in his hands and said ‘I’m sorry I don’t know why I’ve done it’.
He then emptied £280 from his pockets and told the staff not to tell anyone and it would be ‘their secret’.
The court heard how Byrne told staff how he was ‘supposed to be going to university, and it would ruin his life’.
Mr Parker said the staff broke the news to the Rileys after returning from holiday and when they told Byrne’s parents they were ‘devastated’.
Defence barrister Mark Stuart said Byrne’s actions have caused a ‘great deal of heartache’ for both the Rileys and his own family.
He told the court: “He undoubtedly gave little or no thought to that at the time. He has brought it upon himself.
“In early 2014 he started going out with new girl and a new circle of friends. The defendant became rather enticed by it all, and started to treat her.
“He was trying to keep up with the others in that particular social circle.
“While he may be earning some money at the butchers, he’s not earning the sort of money he would be able to buy any amount of cocaine with or going out in Manchester.
“His head is effectively turned during the course of that time. He kept it from his parents. They were unaware.
“He was living a lifestyle rather different to what he was living before.”
Mr Stuart said it has been a ‘very salutary lesson’ for Byrne, who has been working as a labourer, and will ‘make his job prospects more difficult for ever’.
Recorder Christopher Hudson said Byrne’s actions involved a ‘degree of cunning, planning and expertise’ and it was ‘dishonest sneaky stealing’.
Riley’s Butchers owner Geoff Riley said it was a ‘big surprise’ when they were told of Byrne’s actions.
Speaking after the case, he told the Free Press: “To say it’s a kick in the guts is a bit of an understatement.
“It would’ve been a big surprise no matter who it was.
“He is a confident boy and a very likeable lad. I thought we got on well and had a decent relationship.
“We thought we had major problems in the business and firmly believed that.
“We thought it was bad management on our behalf even though I have done this job all my life.
“Foolishly we never suspected somebody of thieving and thought it was a problem with costings or the way we were running the business.
“It was very upsetting to hear and go though all the emotions because at the end of the day you feel stupid and naive.
“The minute he finished in the shop it reverted back to normal.
“If he kept stealing at £20 or £50 a week we probably wouldn’t have known as we are a very busy shop but he got greedy.
“We have tightened all our security since. We didn’t know he was living the high life to the extent he was.”