Cleaner steals �10,000 from Norwich Arts Centre

Rob GarrattA treasured city music and arts venue has been left thousands of pounds out of pocket and may have to make redundancies after an unscrupulous cleaner raided its safe.Rob Garratt

A treasured city music and arts venue has been left thousands of pounds out of pocket and may have to make redundancies after an unscrupulous cleaner raided its safe.

Norwich Arts Centre has been left reeling from a severe financial loss after Terence Reid took �10,000 in cash when cleaning alone on the night shift.

Less than �3,000 has been recovered because Reid, 34, claims he left the rest on a train - leaving the venue, a registered charity, more than �7,000 out of pocket.

The lost cash is not covered by insurance because the cleaner had a key to the venue.

Arts centre manager Stuart Hobday described the loss as 'the last thing we needed' and said it could lead to the centre having to make redundancies - in the year Norwich is bidding to become the UK's City of Culture for 2013.

Yesterday Reid was given a suspended prison sentence at Norwich Crown Court, and ordered to pay back just �240 in compensation over the next year.

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The popular venue, in St Benedict's Street, has been entertaining city audiences for more than three decades, but has suffered throughout the recession, with takings down 10pc in the last 12 months.

Two members of staff were made redundant in January, leaving just three full-time employees.

Mr Hobday: 'It's galling. In a difficult time trading it was the last thing we needed.

'It might cause people to lose their jobs and is a big blow for our organisation; we're a registered charity and we do a lot of good things for Norwich. It was the last thing we needed.

'We're a bit shocked and that he's not been asked to pay it all back. It doesn't seem to be a deterrent to anyone else doing it.'

The theft was discovered by staff, who opened the venue on January 25 and found the door to the safe open.

The court heard that Reid had originally gone for the petty cash draw for some quick money to fund a slot machine addiction. But after spotting the safe key, he broke into the safe room and raided the safe.

Just �2,800 of the money was recovered when police raided Reid's Bowthorpe home, in Goodhale Road.

Reid claims he had the remainder of the cash in his jacket on a train to Colchester, but left the train suddenly at Manningtree because he suffered a fit, and forgot the jacket.

But Judge Simon Barham said he did not 'accept this as being accurate.'

Mr Hobday said that the safe key was never normally kept on site.

He added: 'We paid a very heavy price for a small mistake.'

The arts centre has now severed a longstanding relationship with the cleaning firm, which was not named in court.

Reid admitted a charge of burglary. In mitigation, Andrew Oliver said Reid suffered from a gambling addiction and has recently sought help from specialists Norcas.

He said: 'Mr Reid's problems are currently around abuse of alcohol and linked to gambling. When he went into a pub the first thing he did was go straight to the fruit machines, where he could use a lot of money very quickly.

'He is bitterly, bitterly disappointed in himself for having done this; he acknowledges it fully and accepts he has done something very bad.'

But Judge Barham said: 'You say you had a fit on a train and left the jacket there. I don't accept that as being accurate.

'An uninsured loss has been sustained by the victim of some �7,200.

'Having an alcohol problem or a gambling problem is no excuse for offending - it just makes you, as a criminal, a more dangerous criminal.'

Reid was sentenced to a 26-week prison term, suspended for 18 months, ordered to undertake 10 days of alcohol treatment, complete 200 hours of unpaid work and repay �240 in compensation.

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