Anger over gallery thief's court fine

Shopkeepers were furious after a thief who stole nearly £10,000 pounds of art from their north Norfolk galleries walked out of court with just a £2,000 fine.

Shopkeepers are furious after a thief who stole nearly £10,000-worth of art from their north Norfolk galleries walked out of court with a £2,000 fine.

Dental expert James Paddick, who was sentenced by Cromer magistrates last Thursday, targeted shops in north Norfolk between May and August this year, taking paintings, jewellery and sculptures.

On September 11, the defendant, of Unthank Road, Norwich, pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and asked for another 10 incidents to be taken into account - taking the value of the stolen items to £9,157.50.

Uncertainty now hangs over 28-year-old Paddick's glittering career as operations development manager with the General Dental Council (GDC).

He has either been sacked or suspended from his job, but his precise fate was not made clear either in court or afterwards by the GDC, which refused to comment.

At last week's hearing, Fergus Harrold, prosecuting, told the court that Paddick, who has a PhD in microbiology, had got a "buzz" after stealing the first item from Pinkfoot Gallery in Cley.

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He said: "He realised he enjoyed it. The more inaccessible and difficult an item would be to steal, the greater the buzz and the greater the challenge it was to him."

In mitigation, Tim Carey said Paddick, who also has a home on Granhams Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge, was a "troubled young man" who suffered with depression. He added Paddick had been incredibly co-operative with police.

He said: "When his homes were visited, the police didn't pick everything up and he went in a few days later to take in the items they had missed."

Sentencing Paddick to pay a £2,075 in fines and costs, chairman of the bench Tony Irwin said the high value of the items, targeting of the shopkeepers and the impact on the traders made it a crime worthy of a custodial sentence.

But he added the defendant's previous good character, early confession, co-operation with police and feelings of remorse had to be taken into account.

One of Paddick's victims said she had been let down by the justice system. Sarah Whittley, from Pinkfoot Gallery, said: "It's outrageous. I'm shocked. The legal system doesn't seem to be very fair if he can get off like that."

Ms Whittley said increasing security at the gallery had cost her thousands of pounds and her trust in her customers had been destroyed. She said: "We're looking at every customer as a thief."

Another victim Paul Marriott, from Cley Spy, said a £2,000 fine did not come close to covering what he had lost. He said: "The galleries have had to have CCTV fitted. We've spent thousands of pounds on that.

"It's not enough. Not for the amount of anguish it caused."