Birthday card thief given community service

A former postal worker who stole cash from birthday cards to pay off a gambling debt was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

Stephen Brown, 44, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft amounting to �140 at Exeter Magistrates’ Court.

The Newton Poppleford man, who had worked for Royal Mail for more than five years, was caught in September by investigators after complaints greetings cards had been tampered with.

Brown was found with �45 on his person after test packages were used to detect theft during a night shift at Exeter mail centre.

He admitted he had stolen the money upon interview, and a search of his car revealed a further �95 in cash he had taken from postal packets over the previous fortnight.

His solicitor explained Brown, a family man who lived with his partner and two children in Hillside, had been in a ‘downward spiral’ during the summer, and had racked up gambling debts he couldn’t pay back, so began stealing from cards while sorting through Mail.

Brown had been using medicinal marijuana for back pain, but after his supply ran out he started using street dealers, and quickly became addicted to the much stronger drug, his solicitor explained in mitigation.

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Since being caught he has left his position at the Royal Mail, and has since kicked his drug habit, but magistrates said he had committed a very serious offence.

But they did take various factors into account when handing down sentencing last Thursday, including his early guilty plea.

After asking for an ‘all-options’ report last month, which could have recommended prison for the mail thief, they sentenced Brown to 120 hours of unpaid work, and was ordered to pay �125 in costs.

Speaking after the case Royal Mail spokesperson, Val Bodden, said: “Royal Mail has a zero tolerance approach to any dishonesty and that stance is shared by the overwhelming majority of postmen and women, who are honest and hardworking and who do all they can to protect the mail and deliver it safely.

“We will always seek to prosecute the tiny minority of people who abuse their position of trust.”