Boss’ trust is betrayed as worker and friend of 20 years helps himself to cash from safe in Stevenage
- Credit: Archant
A businessman betrayed by a trusted worker he’d known for more than 20 years has blasted the courts for letting him get off too lightly.
Liam McQueen, 37, was fined £792 at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court on Monday for breaking into Paul Braine’s safe and stealing £240.
Mr Braine, 59, said: “It’s a complete disgrace. How can you call that justice?
“If he’d gone to prison I would have said he’d have got off lightly. Instead he got a fine, which is no real punishment in my eyes.”
Mr Braine owns Stevenage Property Services Ltd where McQueen, of Oaks Cross, worked as a fence erector for two years.
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He was caught on a secret camera which Mr Braine installed in his Arlington Business Park offices after money started going missing.
Initially he thought the cash had been misplaced, but when losses added up to several thousand pounds he decided to install the camera – which only three people knew about.
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McQueen told the court he had found a key in the office and taken money from a petty cash box, but a video recording showed McQueen wearing rubber gloves and entering the safe’s code.
Mr Braine has no idea how he knew the code, and now feels like he doesn’t know who to trust.
He said: “I would have lent him money if he’d asked.
“It’s far more than an opportunist theft – a family friend has come in my office and stolen from me. To me that is the lowest of the low. I would never dream of doing that to my worst enemy.”
McQueen said he was sorry for stealing the money and only did it after he got into council tax arrears and couldn’t see any other way out.
Passing sentence, Vanessa Ganney said: “We have listened to everything that has been said on your behalf and are taking your early guilty plea into consideration. A theft in breach of trust is a serious offence and for this we are going to impose a fine.”
Mr Braine said: “I was absolutely shocked it was him.
“I commented on how much I liked him and what a good worker he was, while all the time he was stealing from me.
“When I found out, I got all the boys who work for me and told everyone we had a thief among us who thought they were pretty clever.
“But I said they were not as clever as me because I had put a camera in and I knew who had done it.
“Then I looked at Liam and told him to get out.”