'Manchester United can afford it', says judge as he lets off thieving burger kiosk workers
The kiosk workers were caught stealing money and hiding it down their trousers
Judge Paul Lawton questioned why the £598 theft case ended up at the crown court and asked: “Manchester United can just about afford it, can’t they?”
The seven defendants, who feared they would be locked up, shared smiles with each other and with friends and family after they were each handed a 12-month conditional discharge.
Secret cameras were installed at an Old Trafford burger stand after bosses noticed takings were down, and the footage captured the casual employees helping themselves to the takings.
Last month District Judge Mark Hadfield, sitting at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court, decided his sentencing powers - up to 12 months behind bars - weren’t enough and he sent the case to Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court.
On Wednesday at the higher court, Judge Paul Lawton described the decision as ‘remarkable’ before hearing an outline of the case.
Prosecutor Timothy Greenald said all seven defendants had been employed by United on a casual basis for matches and other events in a kiosk in the lower east stand at Old Trafford.
Team leader Fliavio Andrade and six staff under him were caught ‘taking cash from the tills and concealing it in their pockets or down the front of their trousers’, said Mr Greenald.
The till was found to be £382 short while a stock take revealed food and drink worth more than £200 was missing after the clash between Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors at United’s ground on Saturday, October 8, last year.
Questioning why the case ended up at the crown court, Judge Lawton said: “Manchester United can just about afford it can’t they?”
Without hearing mitigation, he handed all seven defendants a 12-month conditional discharge, telling them: “You are all very foolish young men, all given the opportunity to work with Manchester United. Most of you come from a sporting backgrounds, studying sports science, and doubtless you were quite excited at working and sometimes observing the match, but you betrayed that trust by pilfering from the kiosk you were tasked with working.”
He described their crime as ‘petty pilfering’ and added: “You should count yourselves lucky that’s an end to the matter.”
Anthony Agabaje, 21, of Folkestone Road West, Clayton, and student architect Mustafa Belkhair, 20, of Beamish Close, Ardwick, had denied theft but were found guilty following an earlier trial at the magistrates’ court.
Lugman Arogundada, 22, of Charlestown Road, Blackley; Mwila Bwanga, 20, of Welbeck Street, Gorton; Salford University media studies student Olamide Oyawaye, 21, of Elfan Crescent, Sandbach, Cheshire; Justino Edmilson, 22, of Tatton Close, Hazel Grove, Stockport; and Fliavio Andrade, 22, of Lydford, Rochdale; all pleaded guilty to theft.
None of the defendants had previous convictions, except for Andrade, who was handed a referral order for a conviction for robbery when he was 14.
After the case solicitor Amar Alyas, who represented Belkhair and Oyawaye, said: “They are very remorseful but this should have been dealt with by the district judge (in the magistrates’ court). It’s unfortunate this had to waste precious crown court time.”
NWN : Want to go on a thieving spree ? Black up like Al Jolson and rob Asda or Tesco's. They can afford it ? Get off scot free . Result !