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Personal trainer stole £10,000 from employer over three years

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A PERSONAL trainer has narrowly avoided jail after being sentenced for stealing almost £10,000 from her employers over more than three years.

Picture: ROB CURRIE. (26556600)

Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris warned 22-year-old Fay Cooper, as she wept in the dock, that it was the court’s normal policy to impose custodial sentences on offenders who ‘breach positions of trust’ to steal.

But Mr Harris told the defendant that because of ‘exceptional circumstances’ – Cooper was aged 18 to 21 for the majority of the offending and there had been a significant delay of almost a year before court proceedings began – he was able to depart from standard procedure.

‘This is a matter for which a term of imprisonment of 12 months may ordinarily be imposed, but for the reasons I have set out I am not going to do that today,’ Mr Harris said.

The Magistrate’s Court heard that shortly after Cooper was employed by Rad Fitness in 2015 she began stealing from the firm, which is run by a father and son.

It was heard that Cooper was responsible for taking her own bookings and managing her own clients and would then keep 60% of the money paid.

However, instead of putting clients’ transactions through the business tills, she was telling her clients to pay her directly by sending money to her personal bank account.

In total, prosecutors say Cooper took about £23,000 herself over more than three years, of which £9,522 was stolen based on the 60/40 split agreement she had with her employers.

Cooper, who admitted one count of theft, was sentenced to 180 hours’ community service, handed a six-month probation order and ordered to pay back all the money within three months.

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She is due to receive a £10,000 inheritance from her grandfather which, the court heard, she had been due to put towards a deposit for a home.

Victim impact statements from Cooper’s former employers were read out in court. In the statements her employers claimed she committed the offences to fund a ‘lavish’ and ‘luxurious lifestyle’.

One of the co-owners said the stress of the police investigation and parallel employment tribunal with Cooper had cost the business financially and in terms of growth.

Police legal adviser Simon Crowder, prosecuting, said Cooper had been fully co-operative with the police and that her admissions to officers had helped them identify the sum of money she had taken.

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He added that Cooper had worked out a way that she could ‘syphon’ funds into her own account without the business noticing.

The court heard that the case was first referred to the police in December 2018. Cooper was not interviewed until March and, Advocate Adam Harrison, defending, pointed out, she was not sentenced until yesterday – almost a year since the case was opened.

The lawyer said his client was a first-time offender and that the case had a significant impact on her ‘wellbeing’.

In announcing the court’s sentence, Mr Harris said that the fact that Cooper had entered a guilty plea, had showed remorse in a letter to the court and was a first-time offender was not enough to prevent a custodial sentence.

However, he said that the long delay and the fact that Cooper, who is now self-employed, was a ‘young offender’ in the eyes of the court when she committed the crime, meant he could deviate from usual court policy.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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