Operator awarded £1 after manager stole £21k

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

Lack of trust: Jemima Withey fears inside theft after £21k stolen
Lack of trust: Jemima Withey fears inside theft after £21k stolen

Related tags: 2016

A Suffolk publican has hit out after being awarded £1 from a former manager who admitted stealing more than £20,000 from the premises over the course of a few months.

Jemima Withey, owner of the Turks Head in Woodbridge, employed Sulayman Sonko, from Lachlan Green, Woodbridge, in March 2016 to be the front-of-house manager, and described him as someone who came across as “fabulous with customers, very friendly and took delight in what he was doing”. 

However, a few months later in July, she said she discovered the bank accounts were “looking low”.

A few weeks later, after looking at CCTV footage, Withey had “no option” but to call the police, she told The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​).

Guilty plea

Sonko, 41, subsequently pleaded guilty to the charge of theft by employee – admitting he took £21,435 from the pub.

Sonko was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on 14 August 2017, and received a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for one year.

He was also ordered to pay back Withey £1.

"It's the awarding me a pound that is really galling,” Withey told MA.

“It's not a deterrent, there is nothing to stop him going to work in someone else's pub business 20 miles away.”

No justice

Withey said she would have felt some “vindication” if there could have been an arrangement where money was paid back over a long period of time, but instead feels like “justice hasn’t prevailed”.

"Luckily my pub is one business of many, and I was able to put money into the business to plug the big hole that he created,” she said. Otherwise, I would be closing the door.

“Pretty much anyone else would have had to close and lay 15 people off. There is no way I could have paid the bills that month without putting in that money."

The future

"With us, there's nothing we can do about the odd £10 or £20 missing, but now nothing like this could happen again, because I do all the cash handling,” continued Withey.

“I don't feel I'm in the position to hand that over to a manager, which is unfortunate – I don't want to work on the basis I can't trust people.”

The pub now has a new till system, which allows Withey to monitor till transactions more closely.

"My advice to people would be that they should have good CCTV, and make their staff aware that there's good CCTV everywhere – because prevention is much better than dealing with it after."

Withey added: "It's very frustrating that he didn't receive any type of custodial sentence. That is a real shame.”

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