Owner to pay back stolen cash over 14 years

A SHOPKEEPER, who has been spared jail, has been ordered to pay back the money he stole - over a period of nearly 14 years.

Russell Claydon

A THIEVING shopkeeper, who has been spared jail, has been ordered to pay back the money he stole - over a period of nearly 14 years.

Last year, Kevin Howells, 41, was ordered to pay back £16,503 after he was convicted of stealing more than £15,000 through false accounting at the shop he ran alongside the post office in Acton, near Sudbury.

But in April, Howells admitted in court he was in no position to repay the money and was warned he may go to jail.

Appearing yesterday for sentencing at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court, District Judge David Cooper agreed to accept Howell's offer of paying £100 a month towards the compensation to the Post Office.

At the current agreement this will take 13 years and 10 months to wipe out.

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The father-of-one told the court he “struggled very hard” financially since the conviction, revealing the Acton shop makes just £158 profit each month. He added they have a maximum mortgage on the shop and no overdraft agreed with the bank.

His wife had written a “very moving” letter to the court asking for the costs to be dropped.

Judge Cooper said: “I was impressed by the letter your wife wrote. Despite pleas of guilty you strike me as a straight forward person who at best got into a muddle. So pay £100 a month.”

In April 2007, Howells admitted at Ipswich Crown Court to using lottery takings to subsidise the shop and was ordered to pay £16,503 compensation to the Post Office, £14,000 prosecution costs and £4,810 towards his own defence costs. He was also instructed to carry out 250 hours of community service.

Yesterday Howells was ordered to return before Judge Cooper to review the case again on December 3, when the other costs would be addressed.