The owners of a dairy believe they have been ‘failed’ by the justice system after a former employee, who stole more than £53,000 from them, escaped incarceration.
Debbie and Justin Plumb, who own Plumbs’ Dairy in Linton, have been left counting the cost to their 68-year-old business (which until last year had been based in Balsham) after former ‘trusted’ member of staff Shaun Mitchell stole £53,353 from them between 2014 and 2016 while working as a customer ledger administrator.
Mitchell, who next week turns 26 and lives in Belmont Court, Haverhill, had worked for the dairy since he was 17, going from being a Saturday boy on the milk rounds to a position of trust in the finance department.
Having previously admitted to stealing the money, Mitchell was sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court on March 7 to a two-year prison term, suspended for two years and was ordered to complete 275 hours of unpaid work.
He will return to court on April 20 for a proceeds of crime hearing, when compensation will also be discussed, but the company’s owners feel that justice has not properly been served.
Debbie, who described Mitchell as a ‘hard worker’, said: “You feel like the justice system should be there to protect the innocent victims and I don’t see what punishment he’s had by not going to prison.
“He’s more than likely not going to pay it back because he has no assets, so where is the message to people to say, ‘don’t do this because you will get found out, because you will get punished’, because there’s not punishment here.
“I did speak to him (Mitchell) after the court hearing and even he was shocked (at not going to prison) and he said ‘I’ve got my bag packed here, my solicitor told me to expect four to six years’, so even he was surprised.”
Mitchell had filtered money aside using various deceptions, said Debbie, including pocketing cash payments made by customers on milk rounds and by emailing customers to tell them that the company’s bank account details had changed and they were to make their payment into a different account number – which turned out to be his own.
It was a phone call, taken by Justin, from a customer wanting to double check the new back account details, that led to Mitchell being rumbled. He confessed to Justin and Debbie what he had done later that same day.
Debbie said: “Shaun was sitting in the room at the time going delete, delete, delete on his computer.
“We are a small family business. We are not Marks & Spencer or Tesco with huge amounts of reserves and we work really hard for everything that we’ve got.
“We try really hard and work our fingers to the bone, certainly my husband does.
“He is working long hours because we are under staffed and have not had the finances to employ as many people as we would ideally like to because we are £53,000 down.
“Shaun would always have the latest designer clothes. He would hire the latest Mercedes Benz and go and buy the latest iPhone. He lived an extravagant lifestyle at our expense.”
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said of the sentence given to Mitchell: “It is not for us to comment on the sentence that the court passes as sentencing is a matter for the court after hearing the outline of the case from the prosecution and any mitigation from the defence.”