A judge has branded a man’s theft of money from a charity box in a Norfolk church as a “despicable offence”.

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Terence Glover, of Newman’s Lane, Loughton, Essex, pleaded guilty to stealing the money from a charity box in Aylsham Parish Church when he appeared at Norwich Magistrates’ Court.

The 44-year-old had initially denied the theft but was charged with stealing an estimated £70 after his fingerprints were found to be both on the inside and the outside of the charity box.

An Aylsham family were left shocked by the theft of the charity box for Dravet Syndrome UK, which they had placed beside the tree they had decorated for the church’s annual Christmas tree festival.

At some time between Friday, November 30 and Wednesday, December 5 the charity box was forced open and emptied.

Annabel Hughes’ daughter Rebekah, seven, suffers from Dravet’s, a form of epilepsy which can cause life-threatening seizures.

Dravet Syndrome UK funds research into the incurable condition, and buys monitors for parents and carers to alert them of dangerous night-time seizures.

Local people responded to the theft and donated £400 to the Hughes family’s collection to compensate for the upsetting crime.

Ben Brighouse, prosecuting, said: “He [Glover] denied it in interview but his fingerprints were not only on the outside of the charity box but inside as well.”

While Ian Fisher, in mitigation, explained that Glover lived with his 82-year-old father, who is not in good health and relies on his son’s support.

Mr Fisher said: “This was a rather embarrassing and shameful offence but we discussed the case in fairly blunt terms and he accepts he is guilty.

“He was up in Norfolk visiting friends living locally and found himself in the church. He still insists the charity box was already on the floor with coins around it and he just picked them up and pocketed them, but he admits the offence.”

District judge Peter Veits, when hearing the case on Friday, handed Glover a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £50 compensation and £165 in costs.

Mr Veits said: “This was clearly a despicable offence, going into a church and stealing from a charity box, and to make it worse you didn’t admit the offence when questioned by police.”

david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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