Gambling addicts who smashed up betting shop in £20,000 rampage escape jail
Two 'bad losers' who went on a £20,000 rampage of destruction in a betting shop walked free from court on Wednesday.
Aaron Cawley, 27, and John Dymock, 31, both from Cheltenham, admitted doing criminal damage to Ladbrokes' shop in Winchcombe Street in the town on December 10, 2016.
They smashed wall-mounted TV screens and attacked fixed-odds betting machines in a wanton spree caught on CCTV.
Before the attack they had asked the manager of the shop if they could sign forms to self-exclude themselves so they could avoid the temptation to gamble. But when they were told they would need photos before they could be excluded, they attacked the machines.
Shop forced to close for two days
Prosecutor Charley Pattison told Judge Ian Lawrie QC at Gloucester Crown Court the shop had to close for two days to repair the damage. The loss of profits was estimated at £23,000.
The judge imposed 18-month community orders on both men.
Dymock was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work and to attend 15 rehabilitation activity sessions to address his gambling addictions.
Cawley, a convicted football hooligan, was ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work and attend 11 rehabilitation activity sessions and a 30-day thinking skills programme.
Despite the high value of the damage and lost profits to Ladbrokes the judge awarded no compensation against the men because, he said, they did not have the means to pay.
Attacked video wall with chair
The prosecutor played the CCTV footage of the incident, and the judge remarked: “We've just seen, very vividly, two bad losers.”
Dymock was seen first picking up a chair and attempting to smash up a FOBT before attacking the video wall with another chair. Cawley was then seen to join in, attempting to pull screens from the wall. A couple using another FOBT could be seen continuing to gamble during Cawley and Dymock's rampage.
Pattison said the shop manager, Adam Hurley, saw the two men enter the premises at 6.30pm. They were known to him as they had previously asked about self-exclusion forms to bar themselves from the branch.
After half an hour the two approached Hurley and asked about the process. Hurley explained they would need to supply passport-sized photos. The prosecutor said after a further 30 minutes the men approached him again.
This time they asked: “If we smash this place up, will you exclude us then?” Hurley told them they just needed to provide passport-sized photos.
The two men then began their wrecking campaign, attacking FOBTs and video walls. The prosecutor said Dymock smashed 12 screens on the video walls, and Cawley ripped a screen from the wall and pushed a coffee machine over.
Manager pushed the panic button
Pattison said that in an area called 'greyhound corner' three further screens were smashed, and it was believed to be Cawley who was responsible – this was not captured on CCTV.
The court heard that Hurley pushed the panic button and ushered a younger female member of staff upstairs.
Pattison added: “Perhaps this goes to the immersive nature of FOBTs but of the other couple we see the gentleman gambling doesn't seem bothered, but the lady with him was trying to move away.
“It would have been very frightening. There were other customers present.”
Pattison pointed out that at no stage did Hurley feel the violence was directed at him. She said he had noticed that the men's speech was slurred and he suspected they were drunk.
Hurley said in his statement: “In all the time I've worked in the industry, this is the first time I've had to deal with such a serious incident.”
Pattison said “He was shocked by what they did in such a short time.”
Turning to the two men's previous convictions, she said both had 'busy records'.
Cawley had convictions for football hooliganism, notably when he went onto the pitch during a Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United match in October 2012 and attacked Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.
In total there were 28 previous convictions recorded against Cawley for 50 offences.
Dymock has a record of 39 convictions for 112 offences, the prosecutor told the judge.
“Plainly both have a full criminal history,” she said.
Judge Lawrie QC said: “They are a pair of inadequate individuals shackled to an addiction. Despite their appalling track records, I'm not sure locking them up will help. I'm not going to order compensation as neither can pay it.
“They have fairly entrenched gambling problems,” the judge remarked, indicating he was considering a community sentence rather than jail. “Oh well,” he said, “it's worth a try.”
Representing both men, Alison Gurden said Cawley had been suffering with depression and was unable to work, but had taken an HNC in computers.
“The defendants are both in a difficult financial position,” she said.
Gurden said Cawley rang the police following the incident and tried to hand himself in.
'Sad pair on many levels'
The court heard both men had now successfully self excluded from betting shops. “It's FOBTs that's the problem,” she said.
The judge replied: “I'm happy to say I've never been in a betting shop in my life, and never will. It's only the bookmakers that win.”
He said both men were “a sad pair on many levels”, telling them:
“Your behaviour was inexcusable. You were both drunk and reacted badly to losing. Two poor, drunk, losers.”
The judge said to the men: “Bring some order to your lives. Address your gambling problems.”
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