Man cleared of failing to do unpaid work

PUBLISHED: 11:32 20 September 2016 | UPDATED: 11:32 20 September 2016

Exeter Crown Court.

Exeter Crown Court.

Archant

A former computer shop owner has been cleared of bunking off community payback work after telling a judge the probation service lost an important letter.

Kai Hirst said he wrote to probation officers telling them he could not make his appointment to do voluntary work because of a family break-up which had forced him to move away from North Devon.

He said he also rang and left a message giving his new address, but this was also ignored by managers running the unpaid work scheme in Barnstaple.

Hirst was ordered to do 150 hours’ payback as part of a 15-month suspended sentence for cheating customers at the Performance PCs shop which he ran in Barnstaple.

He was taken to court by the probation service after he failed to attend sessions on April 9 and 16 and officers lost contact with him.

Hirst, who now lives in Honiton and works in Cullompton, has been given another chance to do the 63 remaining hours’ unpaid work at a probation-run project in Exeter.

He faced the danger of his jail sentence being activated, but a recorder at Exeter Crown Court ruled he had not breached his order without reasonable excuse.

Hirst, aged 36, of Joslin Road, Honiton, denied failing to carry out unpaid work and was found not guilty by Recorder Mr Rufus Taylor.

Mr Herc Ashworth, prosecuting, said Hirst failed to turn up for unpaid work in Barnstaple and did not contact the probation service with any explanation or notify a change of address.

Hirst produced a copy of a letter which he said he sent to probation on the day of the first failure to attend and which he assumed they must have lost.

The letter said he was unable to attend that day or for the next two Saturdays because of a family crisis which had led to him moving from his home in Mill Street, South Molton, to stay with a friend in Dunkeswell.

He said he had told the probation of his new address in Dunkeswell, but they had refused to accept it for bureaucratic reasons and had continued sending correspondence to South Molton even when it was returned to sender.

The recorder said he accepted Hirst’s evidence given on oath about the breakdown of his relationship and sending the letter to the probation service.

In the original hearing the court heard how Hirst swindled customers by selling computers which had been taken to him for repair or stripping out good quality parts and replacing them with cheaper substitutes.

He was also ordered to pay £2,000 compensation to customers who lost irreplaceable family memories when he stole their laptops.

He stole from clients to pay for a drinking habit which he developed after his marriage broke up and he ended up sleeping at the shop in Queen Street, Barnstaple.

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