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Shop assistant Jessica Symons spared jail after stealing £20,000 from The Emporium in Margate

By Sian Napier

A young shop assistant stole about £20,000 from her employer to help pay her direct debits... with a penny scam.

Jessica Symons, 20, took between £1,200 and £1,500 a month from the Margate shop's takings, Canterbury Crown Court was told.

Symons, of Royal Road, Ramsgate, admitted theft and was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. None of the money has been repaid.

Symons kept a pile of 1p pieces on the till which she gave customers as change to pocket £10. Picture: Library image

Allister Walker, prosecuting, said the owner of The Emporium in Margate High Street opened a second shop in Canterbury in 2011 and both were doing well.

In July 2012, Symons was employed in the Margate store on a zero hours contract and was always keen to work as much as possible.

Early in 2013, the owner noticed the Margate shop was struggling, which had never happened before, and she thought the Canterbury shop was draining its profits.

In June that year, the owner was in the Margate shop when Symons cashed up and was £40 short. She told her to be more careful, but then decided to print out the store's transactions.

She became concerned and looked at the CCTV footage which showed Symons ringing up "no sale" at the tills.

Mr Walker said Symons kept a pile of 1p pieces on the till and when a customer offered a £10 note for something costing £9.99 she took one of the pennies for the change, rang up no sale and pocketed the money.

"That appeared to have been happening time and time again," Mr Walker said.

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

He said the owner estimated the loss at £23,000 and the prosecution had settled on up to £20,000, based on the previous year's takings.

Oliver Kirk, defending, said in early 2013 Symons had lost her accommodation and had moved to Deal. As a result, her expenses were higher and her direct debits started bouncing.

"At that stage she started stealing from the business and helping herself to stock," Mr Kirk said. "This is a breach of trust over a significant time."

Symons, who had no previous convictions, had lost her job. None of the money had been repaid.

Mr Kirk said Symons had come from troubled circumstances. “She has very much had to stand on her own feet for a long time and bear a significant responsibility for caring for her mother,” he said.

“She is a presentable and charming young lady who has made a terrible mistake.”

In addition to the suspended sentence, Symons was give a 12-month supervision order and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

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