Jail for fraudster who wasted ‘last chance’

Ian Cook
Ian Cook
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A SERIAL fraudster who vowed to turn over a new leaf has been sent to prison after committing further offences – one on the very day magistrates offered him a “last chance”.

Ian Cook, 46, of North Road, Lancing, appeared at Worthing Magistrates’ court on Monday (January 30) where he pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud and a charge of committing an offence during a suspended sentence.

As reported in the Herald on January 12, Cook was given a 24-week suspended sentence on January 5 after pleading guilty to numerous counts of fraud and making off without payment.

Over a four-month period, Cook had been approaching members of the public in Worthing and Lancing asking them for petrol money, on occasions managing to gain as much as £5 per person.

Despite vowing to “turn over a new leaf”, Cook committed the same offence on the same day he was sentenced, using his excuse of needing petrol money to fund his £100-a-day crack cocaine habit. He continued to do this for two weeks.

Peter Long, defending, confirmed Cook had had a crack cocaine habit for some time, and was the reason behind his fraudulent behaviour. The court also heard Cook had a history of mental illness, and had turned to drugs and alcohol when his medication for bi-polar disorder was stopped.

The magistrates allowed Cook to have his own say at the hearing.

He said: “I am certainly not proud of the offences I have committed. Over the last six to eight months my drug habit has fallen into a bad cycle. I feel like I have not been offered the chance to get off the drugs, and if you gave me the chance I am sure I could. If not, I will accept the consequences and go to prison.”

Chairman of the bench Elizabeth Goodwin said: “We were all very interested to hear you speak, and we all agree you are a very intelligent man, and it is very sad that you find yourself in this position. But you were given a last chance with a suspended sentence earlier this month. The bench feel we have no choice but to activate your suspended sentence.”

Cook was sentenced to 36 weeks’ imprisonment, running consecutively to the 24 weeks he had already been sentenced on January 5.

Diane Ball, owner of the Sandwitch Bar in Rowlands Road, Worthing, said she was pleased Cook had finally been imprisoned after he targeted customers in her shop last year. “I think it is great news he is finally in prison,” she said. “Not only was he bothering people on the streets but I know people who felt threatened by him when he knocked on their door for money. The system has been a bit slow, but at least justice has finally been made.”