An aggrieved boss of a bricklaying firm hired a £16,000 cherry picker then tried to sell it for less than half price on a website.
Colin Cooper, who had financial problems, told police that it had been stolen but his lies unravelled when a suspicious prospective customer for the equipment saw a £1,000 reward had been offered by the owners and alerted them.
It was outrageous dishonesty, it was utterly stupidTom Watson
Jailing the 27-year-old defendant Judge Andrew Menary, QC, said, “This court is well aware that the theft of items of plant, machinery and materials involved in the construction industry has reached epidemic proportions around the country.
“There is a very real problem for those working in the construction industry. Those operating building sites know they cannot leave materials or equipment on site because the theft of such items is happening all the time causing very serious financial loss.”
He told Cooper, “I’m not sentencing you for that but only for what you have done, but that is the background to this type of offending.”
The judge said that Cooper’s explanation that he had been let down by the hire company and also found their customer service “poor and rude” and so decided to sell the cherry picker to annoy them was “bizarre.”
“Assuming it is true, it doesn’t paint a particularly impressive picture of you or your attitudes towards other people’s property.”
He said that however bad their customer service might have been it did not justify his behaviour and he had no doubt that at least part of his motivation was his desire to dishonestly obtain funds by selling the cherry picker.
“You did not simply abandon it somewhere if your only motivation was to annoy them.”
Jailing him for a total of eight months imprisonment Judge Menary said he sentenced him on the basis that he had hired the equipment legitimately and at some later point decided to sell it and cover up his tracks by making a false complaint of theft.
The cherry picker was damaged and the judge said that he believed that was by Cooper trying to find a tracking device which is routinely attached to such equipment.
With the cost of the damage and the reward the hire company was £7,278 out of pocket.
Cooper, of School Lane, Upholland, had pleaded guilty to theft and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Judge Menary pointed out that the latter offence was serious and “involves a complete waste of police time and resources and has the effect of undermining the justice system.”
Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that on January 9 Cooper hired a cherry picker but the one he got was not the one he had wanted as it was unavailable and within a couple of days he reported to police that it had been stolen from his premises, St Helens Repointing and Bricklaying Services in Rivington Road, St Helens.
However he had advertised it on the Gumtree website for £5,600 and a potential buyer came to see it but was not satisfied by his reason for selling it so did not buy it. He later saw the hire company was offering a £1,000 reward for information about the missing item and contacted them.
Tom Watson, defending, said that Cooper needed the equipment for work he was carrying out at The Auberge restaurant in Southport and the one he got was unsuitable.
“He allowed his frustration and perhaps even temper to get the better of him and his ability to reason.
“It was outrageous dishonesty, it was utterly stupid.”
Mr Watson said that Cooper, a father-of-one, had been trying to build up his business but had financial problems including a tax bill.
He has only just been able to re-establish contact with his young daughter after an acrimonious break-up with his partner and is distressed that losing his liberty will jeopardise that, he added.