THE LANDLORD of a Stratford town centre pub pocketed some of the takings by fiddling the electronic till so that a number of drink sales were registered as food.
And even after brewery officials noticed that a lager had been ‘mislabelled’ as food, dishonest licensee Christopher Tearne continued with his crooked scam.
At Warwick Crown Court Tearne denied stealing just over £1500 from Davenports Brewery while he was running the Lamplighter pub in Rother Street, Stratford, last year.
But on the day of his trial the 25 year-old of New Street, Cubbington, Leamington, pleaded guilty to two alternative offences of fraud, which were accepted by prosecutor Graham Russell.
Despite already having a caution for a similar offence, Tearne was given a community sentence and ordered to do 90 hours of unpaid work and to pay £1,525 compensation to Davenports and £800 costs.
Mr Russell said that Tearne, who had been sacked from his previous job at the Lazy Cow pub, began working as the licensee and manager of the Lamplighter in July last year.
By September the brewery management noticed a deficit in his stock when they carried out a routine stock check, which led to a further investigation in October.
On that day brewery business development manager Debbie Jarrett and a colleague visited the pub and found that on the electronic till Carling lager had been misallocated as food.
Mr Russell explained that the significance of that was that, as manager, Tearne was entitled to 100% of any food sales, compared to 7% of drink sales.
“So it was an endeavour to procure himself a little extra money,” commented Mr Russell.
When he was questioned about it, Tearne claimed it must have been an error with the till – something which the service engineer responsible for it subsequently said would be impossible.
At that time, however, Tearne’s explanation was accepted, and the till was set up correctly.
But when Ms Jarrett and her colleague returned a few days later they found that large glasses of wine and half-pints of pop had then been allocated as food sales.
A full stock-check disclosed that the brewery had lost a total of £1,525 as a result of Tearne’s dishonesty – but when he was arrested he continued to blame an error on the till.
Mr Russell pointed out that immediately before getting the job at the Lamplighter Tearne had been given a police caution for a similar matter while working at the Lazy Cow where he.
On that occasion he had taken a booking for a group of people who had run up a bill of £550 for food and drink, only for him to then alter the till to zero and pocket the money.
Saleema Mahmood, defending, said: “It was financial mismanagement which brought the defendant to commit the offences.
“He is of somewhat limited financial capacity, but he is in work and has proposed a repayment schedule.”
Sentencing him, and ordering him to pay the compensation at £400 a month, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones told Tearne: “These were offences committed in breach of trust.
“There are many people who, at various times in their life, find it difficult to manage financially, and I don’t ignore that that can create a deal of stress.
“But I am afraid you have exhibited, on more than one occasion now, a dishonest streak.
“I don’t want that to ruin the rest of your work life; but you have got to eradicate it, otherwise you will end up being unemployable.
“You have a caution for theft and now a conviction for fraud. You’re going to have to lead an honest and hard-working life from now to live that down.”