Man sentenced over 'Theroux' fraud

Salisbury Journal: Allan Debenham, 39, leaves South Somerset Magistrates' Court in Yeovil Allan Debenham, 39, leaves South Somerset Magistrates' Court in Yeovil

A man who conned a pub into believing he was TV star Louis Theroux has walked free from court.

Allan Debenham, 39, was given a 12-month community order with supervision by magistrates after previously pleading guilty to two charges of making a false representation by claiming he was "Louis Theroux from the BBC".

Debenham had booked a room at the £70-per-night Duke of York pub at Shepton Beauchamp, near Ilminster, in the name of the documentary maker, magistrates were told at an earlier hearing. The homeless alcoholic called the pub on the evening of April 21 this year saying he was "Louis Theroux from the BBC" and made a reservation for three nights. He said the payment for his stay would be arranged through his personal assistant who would phone later.

"Later the pub receives another telephone call purporting to be from Louis Theroux's PA who gives a telephone number for the BBC's finance department and an order number to arrange payment," prosecutor Emma Chetland said at the earlier hearing.

"He also asks for two bottles of wine to be left outside the room. The PA rings again and asks for two bottles of Cava and some fags - to use his words - to be left outside the same room. The person taking the call becomes suspicious at the use of the word 'fags' rather than cigarettes. They go upstairs and find the door to the room locked. They call the telephone number that was left and find it to be unobtainable and they call the BBC, who tell them the order number is not one they recognise."

Pub staff called police and Debenham was arrested. Investigations revealed that the defendant had also booked a taxi to take him to the pub. "The taxi was booked in the name of Louis Theroux and they were told they may not recognise that person as he had put on a bit of weight but they should send the bill to the BBC," Miss Chetland added.

The court heard that Debenham had defrauded the owners of the pub out of £165 - the cost of a two nights and the two bottles of wine - and the taxi firm of a £14.70 fare. Debenham, of Hamilton Road, Taunton, returned to South Somerset Magistrates' Court in Yeovil to be sentenced for fraud offences and a separate matter of assaulting his former partner.

Amanda Campbell, chair of the bench, told Debenham: "Looking at the offences in front of us we consider the assault to be the most serious. However, we do think all these offences have the same root cause. We consider that the community can best be served by a sentence designed to rehabilitate.

"We also heard that you have engaged with the health and mental services, you have been to your doctor and you have seen Turning Point and an independent alcohol worker. Taking all those things into consideration, we are going to give you a community order for 12 months with a supervision requirement."

Debenham was also ordered to pay compensation of £165 to the pub, £14.70 to the taxi firm and a victim surcharge of £60. He was also told to pay his former partner £100 compensation and made subject of a restraining order not to contact her for 12 months.

www.justice.gov.uk/about/hmcts(HM Courts and Tribunals Service)

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