A teenager who defrauded a gym out of TWO PENCE by using a friend’s membership code was dragged into court and prosecuted – at a cost of £1,200 to the taxpayer.
Cheeky Nathan sparrow, 18, borrowed his mate’s entry PIN number to use the gym for a one-hour workout.
The 24-hour gym charges £15.99 per month for membership – equating to just 53p per day or 2.2p per hour.
Bosses called the police and Nathan later pleaded guilty to dishonesty and was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £185 prosecution costs.
But one of the Government’s top legal advisers has now ordered a report into the case after it emerged it cost £1,200 to bring to court.
The Solicitor-General, Mr Edward Garnier QC, said the case appears to be an example of ”using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
Lucy Manning, prosecuting, told Leicester Magistrates Court how Nathan used his friend’s access code to use The Gym in Leicester between 4.38pm and 5.39pm on October 17.
She told the court the value of the one-day use of the facilities equated to 53p as the gym charges £15.99 for a month’s membership.
Nathan pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonestly making a false representation, namely using a friend’s membership and pin number to gain entry to The Gym, intending to make a gain, namely using the gym facilities free of charge for yourself, contrary to sections 1 and 2 of the Fraud Act 2006.
Olwen Davies, defending, said he pleaded guilty but did not realise he was breaking the law.
She said: ”His friend said he could use his membership and gave him the pin number to gain access.”
It was puzzling that Sparrow’s friend had also not been charged and arrested, she said.
Miss Davies added that the prosecution costs were £185, the defence bill was £400 and the cost of court time and police case preparation pushed costs up to around £1,200.
Judge David Meredith gave Sparrow a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £185 prosecution costs.
Mr Garnier, Conservative MP for Harborough advises parliament and the Queen on the law as one of the most powerful legal experts in England and Wales.
He said: ”On the face of it this does seem to be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut but without knowing more about the background of the case it would not be appropriate for me as the Solicitor-General and therefore, Minister with Responsibility for the Crown Prosecution Service to comment at the moment.
”I will take the matter up directly with the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Leicester and get a report from him.”
Crown Prosecution Service spokesman Graham Buchanan defended the ”entirely correct” prosecution.
He said: ”The defendant has pleaded guilty to fraud by misrepresentation under the Fraud Act 2006, which is a very serious offence, and not the mere theft of 50p.
”His guilty plea clearly acknowledges his criminal conduct and the seriousness of his actions in using another person’s identity.
”Given the seriousness of identity theft, this is an entirely correct prosecution to bring and has been dealt with appropriately through the courts.”
A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said: ”The police and the Crown Prosecution Service work together during the prosecution process.
”Discussions take place between Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors and officers prior to charge.
”The decision whether to charge and with what offence rests with the Crown Prosecution Service.
”Each case is judged on its individual merits, for some offences officers will consider alternative methods of disposal such as cautions and fixed penalty notices.”
But Nathan, who is unemployed, said: ”I think it was all a bit over the top.”