Retford: Tanning shop staff sentenced for thefts which devastated business

Guardian in court logo
Guardian in court logo

Two tanning shop staff who stole hundreds of pounds of stock from their employer and sold it on to line their own pockets have avoided jail.

Two tanning shop staff who stole hundreds of pounds of stock from their employer and sold it on to line their own pockets have avoided jail.

Callum Sherry, 21, of Grove Lane, Retford, and Claire Saxton, 41, of Fulmar Way, Gateford, Worksop, admitted theft from their employee between February and April last year.

The pair worked at Chocolate Banana, a tanning and slimming pills business on Randall Park Way, Worksop Magistrates heard.

Owner Niki Brownson-Smith employed them to man the office while she went out drumming up new business with salons, in a last ditch attempt to save her struggling company.

But while she was out, the pair would browse the Internet, shop online and set up their own back door transactions with customers.

Prosecutor Ruth Snodin explained that around £800 worth of stock theft could be proven with evidence, but more could have been taken.

Mrs Snodin read an emotional victim impact statement from Mrs Brownson-Smith.

“The business began to run into trouble in 2012. I decided to get out and sell direct to salons but had to employ two people to man the shop,” she said.

“They were my last hope. If I took them on and it didn’t work I would lose everything.”

Saxton would regularly ask for time off to look after family members, the court heard, but this was when she would deliver the stolen stock to customers.

Mrs Brownson-Smith said the business was in such dire straits that she became unable to pay wages and office rent. She also missed mortgage payments and had to sell her car.

She said: “Inside I was dying because I could see everything slipping away.”

The pair’s scheme finally came to light after Sherry was sacked over a separate incident, and he told his boss all about it.

The court heard Sherry had created fraudulent invoices on the accounting system, products were hidden in an office before being taken out to Claire’s car and delivered for cash payment. Profits were split 50/50.

Mrs Brownson-Smith described the discovery of their betrayal as ‘soul destroying’, having classed Sherry in particular as a close friend and confidant.

“I have been left unable to trust people, my marriage has suffered, my reputation is in disrepair and my business is in liquidation,” she said.

In police interviews both Saxton and Sherry tried to blame each other for masterminding the scheme. But each defence solicitor told the court they now accepted joint responsibility.

Jamie Ratcliffe, representing Saxton, said: “When the police arrived at her door wanting to speak to her about this it was almost a sense of relief. It was out in the open and it could stop.”

“She was suffering financial difficulties of her own with approximately £8,000 of debt.”

He described said Saxton had had relationship problems and was struggling to come to terms with how she would explain her crimes to her children.

The court also heard she had a string of previous convictions for obtaining property by deception, conspiracy to defraud and shop theft.

Selina Turner, defending Sherry, said he had found the last year ‘extremely difficult’ waiting to be sentenced, and had developed an eating disorder.

“He has made the decision to move out of the area. He is very embarrassed about what he has done and does not feel it is right for Mrs Brownson-Smith to see him around Retford.”

Magistrates decided custody was justified because the offence was so serious and involved a high degree breach of trust. However, they held back from imposing immediate prison sentences.

Claire Saxton was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, with 18 months probation supervision. She was ordered to pay £600 compensation to the victim plus £85 court costs.

Callum Sherry was handed a 12 week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, with 12 months supervision to include 100 hours unpaid work. He must also pay £600 compensation and £85 court costs.