Gambling addict stole scratchcards from town store

A Shilbottle man with a gambling addiction has been given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to stealing scratchcards and cash from his employer.

Anthony Cowens, 20, of Lee Avenue, was responsible for running a till at the kiosk at Sainsbury’s in Alnwick when the offences took place between July 1 and November 19 last year.

Prosecutor James Long told South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court that Cowens’ thefts ran into thousands of pounds, with a figure of £10,000 being mooted.

He said Cowens had been placed under investigation by the store’s commercial manager after it was found that the kiosk tills were regularly down on cash.

Mr Long said: “CCTV footage showed the defendant locking down both tills at the kiosk.

“While doing so he was seen to place his hand in to the till and remove it with his fist clenched before putting it in his pocket.”

Cowens was seen doing the same again another day and was subsequently removed from the shop floor. When he was searched, cash was found on him and four packets of scratchcards, worth around £800, were found down the front of his trousers.

David Cornberg, defending, said Cowens had started taking small amounts of money when his family ran into financial difficulty.

The court heard that, when the offences took place, Cowens was living with his mum and two younger siblings and was the only one working.

Probation officer Nicola Bridgeman told the court Cowens had developed a gambling problem at the age of 16 and had racked up debts.

At the time of the offences, his family’s utilities were being cut off and she said he was trying to help them out.

Cowens added: “I would like to say how sorry I am, how much I regret what I did and how guilty I feel of how much stress I have caused to my colleagues and managers because of what I did. I was in a really dark place.”

He said he won around £2,000 from the stolen scratchcards.

Cowens was given a 16-week prison sentence suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to complete an 18-month supervision order and 150 hours of unpaid work.

The judge also ordered him to pay £750 compensation and and £80 victim surcharge.