South Shields MP ‘appalled’ by filling station fuel theft policy

Emma Lewell-Buck, South Shields MP, has spoken out about the incident.
Emma Lewell-Buck, South Shields MP, has spoken out about the incident.

A petrol station boss in South Tyneside has been blasted by an MP after a court heard a worker was forced to foot the bill for a forecourt fuel theft.

Magistrates in South Tyneside were told assistant cashier Diane Brown was docked almost a day’s pay when opportunistic thief Lee Reay filled up his car with £30 worth of petrol before fleeing without paying while she was on duty.

Park Road Group, which operates the filling station in Boldon Lane, South Shields, where the crime took place, says its policy is that staff can be deducted pay if it is found they did not carry out observational checks – such as obtaining a registration plate and a description of the offender’s vehicle.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has branded the County Durham-based firm as being “morally wrong” for making workers fork out when they fall victim to crime.

The company’s policy came to light after Reay was sentenced over two petrol station thefts in South Tyneside over the festive season.

The petrol station worker gave a victim statement, which was read out during the hearing at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

The statement read: “Money not paid comes out of my wages. It cost me almost a day’s pay.

“It is very frustrating when people don’t pay.”

The court ordered Reay to pay compensation of £30 to the worker, while his defence solicitor Geoffrey Forrester called into question the company’s ‘harsh practices’.

Mark Richardson, a partner with Park Road Group, which has six service station sites in the region, said the cashier was given a warning after she failed to initially fill in correct paperwork over the theft.

He went on to deny that the firm docked her pay after she complied and filled in the corect paperwork.

He confirmed the company has a policy of deducting wages from staff in certain cases of theft from its businesses.

He said: “We would only ever deduct wages by looking at each case on an individual basis. Such as a case where the attendant has not taken the registration plate or the description of the vehicle involved.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “I am appalled to hear that Park Road Group treats its staff so badly.

“For them to expect their employees to be personally liable for the theft of petrol from one of their outlets is morally wrong and can only amount to bad employment practice.

“I think the company has a duty of care to train staff in what to do in the event of theft and to ensure their staff are protected from criminal behaviour, not to dock their staff’s wages if they have had the misfortune to be on duty while a petrol theft takes place.”

The petrol station has signage from nationwide chain Total emblazoned on the premises, but the oil firm has no involvement in the site, having sold off its forecourt division.

A Total spokesman said; “We have had no involvement at all on this site since 2010.”