A MILLIONAIRE businessman and football club chairman has been left £11,000 out of pocket after privately prosecuting a man he accused of burglary and handling stolen goods.
Dale Vince, founder of the Ecotricity green power firm and chairman of Forest Green Rovers, alleged that builder Richard Cole, 49, had organised two burglaries at his home in Rodborough.
The Crown Prosecution Service had declined to proceed against Cole, of Tower Road South, Bristol, on the grounds of insufficient evidence so Mr Vince funded the prosecution.
It was alleged Cole sent his own teenaged son and another youth to steal from the garage of Mr Vince's home on two occasions.
Cole was also accused of dishonestly receiving two motorsport helmets which had been stolen from Mr Vince.
Today, after a four-day trial, a Gloucester Crown Court jury cleared Cole of conspiracy to burgle but convicted him of handling stolen goods.
Recorder Stephen Climie told Cole: "The jury have convicted you of coming into possession of two items that were undoubtedly stolen during a series of break-ins to the garage.
"Who took them and how you came in possession of them I do not know."
He sentenced Cole to an 18-month community order with 200 hours unpaid work and order he pay costs of £5,000 towards the £16,675 it has cost Mr Vince to fund the prosecution.
Cole had worked for Mr Vince as a builder at his home on Rodborough Common but ceased working for him in 2009 after they fell out.
The prosecution claimed during the trial that Cole sent his son Jack, then 16 but now 18, with friend Kieran Marshall, 18, to go into the unlocked garage of the house while Mr Vince was in the process of moving homes.
The two youths have accepted police cautions after admitting taking thousands of pounds worth of equipment from the garage.
In evidence Jack Cole tearfully gave evidence that his father had put him up to the burglaries and even drove him to the second and helped him load the loot into his van.
Defending Matthew Harbinson said Cole, a former serviceman, had previous convictions for dishonesty, but they dated back to 1984, when he was a teenager and before he signed up.
He said because of the adverse publicity in the case, Cole could no longer work as a builder and was now in the haulage industry instead.