Coffee shop worker stole almost £3,500 from safe to repay ‘enormous debt’

Nicholas McLaughlan stole money from the safe at Caff� Nero in Sudbury to repay his debts Picture:

Nicholas McLaughlan stole money from the safe at Caff� Nero in Sudbury to repay his debts Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The former assistant manager of a Suffolk branch of Caffè Nero has avoided going straight to jail for stealing almost £3,500 from the shop’s safe to repay debts.

Nicholas McLaughlan was handed a suspended prison sentence at Suffolk Magistrates Court on Monday after pleading guilty to stealing the cash over a four-week period last winter.

The 31-year-old was filling in as manager of the Sudbury coffee shop while his brother recovered from back surgery at the time.

Magistrates heard how McLaughlan, who lives between his partner’s address and the home of his father, in Bullocks Terrace, stole £3,434.36 between November 2 and December 2.

On one occasion, he handed G4S security staff three banking bags of cash but signed paperwork declaring four had been collected.

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He was also caught on CCTV, hiding cash from the back of the safe in his coat, before leaving with the money 10 minutes later.

Solicitor Michael Whatley, mitigating, said McLaughlan had no previous convictions before taking the job 18 months ago, having previously worked with dementia sufferers for nine years.

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“He and his former partner had split up,” said Mr Whatley.

“When his partner decided to move out of the home, he couldn’t afford to stay and ran up an enormous amount of debt – stealing in order to pay it off.”

Mr Whatley explained that McLaughlan’s new partner was reliant on him to help care for their unwell child.

“He has just made an application for benefits, and a custodial sentence would have horrendous effects on his partner and their severely ill child,” he added.

Before sentencing, the probation service reported that McLaughlan had “buried his head in the sand” rather than seek help for his debt.

The court heard how McLaughlan’s relationship with his brother, whose trust he breached by stealing the money, had only recently begun to be repaired.

Magistrates agreed that McLaughlan would benefit from working with the probation service on rehabilitation and reducing his risk of offending again.

They sentenced him to eight weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, ordered him to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and 15 days of rehabilitation, and told him to repay the money he stole.

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