Candy Shop burglar stole shop’s keys, had own set cut
A FORMER employee of The Candy Shop in Town stole keys to the shop, had his own set cut and used them to commit 20 burglaries over a three-month period, the Royal Court was told.
Joshua Coutu, 23, admitted five specimen charges and asked the court to take an additional 15 into consideration. He was jailed for three years.
He also admitted possession of the class B drug cannabis.
Crown advocate Gary Perry, prosecuting, said the offences came to light when the shop owner told police that he had noticed lottery tickets had gone missing and there were unauthorised transactions on the machine used to provide mobile phone top-up vouchers.
These could be carried out only with a special code known to shop staff, he said.
The owner had suspicions that a former employee was behind the burglaries, named Coutu.
Coutu had worked for the shop for three years before being dismissed due to poor timekeeping.
Locks were changed because of the owner’s suspicions.
Later on, staff at the Co-op post office in Town alerted police to a large number of winning lottery tickets being cashed by Coutu.
A silent alarm was installed at the Candy Shop and this was triggered at about 1am one night. CCTV cameras were trained on the shop and officers in the control centre saw someone dressed in black leaving and locking the door behind them.
The cameras were used to track them. This person was stopped by officers and it was Coutu.
He showed them £10-worth of lottery tickets in his back pocket. Later on he was found to have £75 in cash as well as two sets of keys.
A check by officers found that one set fitted the locks of The Candy Shop.
A subsequent search of the defendant’s home found 200 cigarettes as well as two hand-rolled cigarettes that were later found to contain 0.27grammes of herbal cannabis.
Although initially denying that the cannabis and cigarettes were his when interviewed, he then admitted that they were.
At first he said he had found the keys on Pier Steps, but later admitted taking them from where they were stored by staff and having a second set made.
After being remanded in custody following a breach of bail conditions, Coutu was later arrested at the prison and charged with an additional 19 burglaries. This followed a report from the company that supplied the mobile phone top-up machine which showed it had been used on 48 occasions outside the shop’s normal hours.
A report from Sure revealed that the majority of the top-ups had been used on Coutu’s own mobile. In total, £1,670-worth of top-up vouchers had been created.
Coutu admitted taking what he thought was some £2,000-worth of lottery tickets from the shop.
When asked to explain why he kept returning to steal, he said: ‘The opportunity was there – why waste it?’ It ended up becoming a habit that he could not control.
The prosecution sought compensation of £1,662.03 for the shop owner.
Coutu had a previous conviction for burglary from a restaurant where he had been employed.
For Coutu, Advocate Samuel Steel said that despite comments in the probation report, the defendant said his actions were not anything personal against the owner.
He said that the day before the hearing Coutu had told him that he had been diagnosed with autism and this was said to explain his apparent lack of remorse. He wished to make a full apology to the court.
He also apologised to the employee of the shop who had been suspected of the thefts and was dismissed before Coutu was arrested.
In response to a question from Judge Russell Finch, Advocate Steel said that the diagnosis of autism had come from the mother of one of Coutu’s friends who had relevant experience.
Coutu accepted that he would be receiving a custodial sentence but on his release he intended to join the French Foreign Legion. ‘His intention is to have a fresh start.’
He would pay back the compensation requested from France.
Judge Finch said that Coutu had shown no remorse and the court did not accept his claim of autism.
‘This crime had a deleterious effect on the business and an innocent person fell under suspicion and was dismissed,’ he said, adding that the owner said it had been ‘three months of hell’ while the burglaries were taking place.
The court did give Coutu credit for his guilty pleas, but that was the only mitigation.
‘We also need to include a deterrent to protect other small businesses,’ said the judge.
Coutu’s three-year sentence included seven days, concurrent, for possession of the drugs, the sentence to start from the date he was taken into custody, 2 October 2017, and there would be a supervision order of one quarter of his sentence when he was released.
The court ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the cannabis.