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Gloucestershire Business News

Man walks free from court to job at Benefits Agency

A Worcester man who abused a friend's hospitality by stealing gold jewellery and selling it walked free from court on Friday (April 14) after telling a judge that he has a job lined up as a security officer at the Benefits Agency.

Gloucester Crown Court heard that James Cooke, of Beech Tree Way, Worcester, was sofa-surfing at the home of friend Simon Lewis in Brooksdale Lane, Cheltenham, in October 2022, when he entered the room of lodger Rachel Barney while she was out at work and stole the jewellery and a gold watch from a tin under her bed.

He forced open the tin - which itself was a treasured heirloom of Ms Barney's - and removed two gold necklaces, two diamond rings and the watch. He then took the rings and necklaces to Bakers Fine Jewellers and signed a form asserting he owned the property and was entitled to sell it, said prosecutor Emilene Davis.

Cooke used his own passport as proof of his identity to the jewellers, who paid him £1,755 for the items.

Ms Davis said the gold watch was not part of the sale and has not been recovered. Ms Barney had been unable to provide a value for it as it had been a gift to her.

The prosecutor said police investigated the theft and recovered the rings and necklaces from the jewellers and returned them to Ms Barney.

In a victim impact statement she said: "This incident has left me feeling violated , upset and vulnerable.

"I am shocked that he entered my personal space without my permission and has been through my personal belongings.

"I feel angry that he has damaged the metal tin that he stole the jewellery from as it belonged to my late father and was very sentimental to me."

Lloyd Jenkins, defending, said Cooke committed the offence on impulse and it was motivated by the £20,000 debts he owed at the time.

"He realises he took advantage of a kind gesture by the friend who allowed him to lodge with him. He saw this as a quick fix to the financial problems he had at the time."

Mr Jenkins said Cooke suffers from ADHD and Tourettes Syndrome and meant no disrespect to the court by his constant twitching and head movements during the hearing. The problem was particularly bad because of the stress of the court appearance, the lawyer said.

Mr Jenkins asked the court to take into account Cooke's timely guilty plea, his regret and remorse, the fact he has no significant or similar criminal history, his young age and the fact that he has always worked and is a 'grafter' determined to do well.

He said Cooke is now living in Worcester with his parents and has a job lined up with G4S as a security officer at the Benefits Agency in Worcester.

"The job of course depends on the outcome of this case today," said Mr Jenkins. "He is ashamed of what he has done."

The lawyer said Cooke would like to compensate Ms Barney for the loss of the watch and he suggested that as its value was not known it should be estimated at about £230. Mr Jenkins said that was the amount he had recently paid for a good watch for his wife.

Cooke admitted burglary of Miss Barney's room and fraudulently selling the jewellery between October 26 and 31, 2022.

The judge, Recorder Mathew Turner, sentenced him to a 12 months' community order with requirement to do 120 hours unpaid work and ordered him to pay £250 compensation to Ms Barney. He made no order for compensation to the jewellers to cover their loss of £1,755.

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