Driver had ten ‘free’ fill-ups at the Co-op

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A driver had ten “free” fill-ups at Co-op petrol stations when he took advantage of their system of allowing customers to pay within seven days.

Gregory Bailey visited Lincolnshire Co-operative’s filling stations in Spalding, Long Sutton and Whaplode over 15 months and didn’t pay a penny for a fuel bill totalling £455.04.

Individual amounts over the period from September 2011 to December 2012 ranged from £20 to £75, Spalding magistrates heard on Thursday.

Prosecutor Jim Clare said Bailey had presented a payment card, but it was rejected because he had insufficient funds.

Each time he was given an “inability to pay” form by a member of staff, in which he signed an agreement to pay-up within seven days.

Mr Clare said: “On each occasion he fails to pay.”

Bailey (27), of South Drove, Spalding, was given an eight-month community order and ordered to do 100 hours’ unpaid work.

He must also pay £455.04 compensation to the Co-op.

Bailey pleaded guilty to ten counts of dishonestly making off without payment at the garages.

Magistrates made no order for costs and waived the usual victim surcharge because of his limited financial means.

Solicitor Beris Brickles, mitigating, said Bailey is an out of work stone mason, who specialises in laying marble floors.

In the early days of the offending, he was expecting employment but it failed to materialise.

Usually when people fail to pay at filling stations, they draw fuel and then drive straight off the forecourt.

But Bailey went into the garage office each time and completed a “contract” to pay within seven days.

He also had his photograph taken.

Mr Brickles said: “On each occasion he wasn’t attempting to hide himself.

“He has abused the system and surprisingly the Co-op has allowed him to abuse the system.

“I think he was surprised that they gave him as much time as they did.

“When the police did come knocking on his door, he was cooperative and made full and frank admissions.”

Mr Brickles said the offences are not continuing because Bailey was disqualified from driving for motoring offences and very sensibly got rid of his car.

He said Bailey owes the court £900 in motoring fines.