Gambling addict who attacked betting shops sentenced

17/08/2017

A self-confessed gambling addict who attacked several betting shops because he said he’d lost so much money to them has been sentenced.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that  Eric Baptista, 29, from Toxteth in Liverpool, smashed up TV screens and gaming machines with a hammer at seven William Hill shops in the south end of Liverpool.

He also smeared the screens in the shops with anti-vandal paint with his bare hands and had some of his attacks filmed on a mobile phone.

All the offences happened during three weeks in May this year. Baptista was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty to the charges, claiming he'd done it because he was a gambling addict.

He told members of staff at one shop that he'd attacked, "This is a protest. I am sorry; there is no safety net for customers".

He told police that he started the attacks because he'd lost so much money to the betting shop chain and was angry that staff weren’t trained on how to deal with problem gamblers.

Crown Advocate Mike Stephenson, who prosecuted the case for Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: "Baptista admitted to committing all of the criminal damage offences at each of the stores on each occasion.

"He said that he'd previously tried to get himself banned from the William Hill stores, but had failed.

"He said that he was a gambling addict, and had lost everything. He smashed all the machines out of frustration that he had lost so much money, and claimed that William Hill had done nothing to help him.

"He claimed that the staff were not trained to identify a gambling addict, and that the attacks were a way for his voice to be heard.

"He stated that he had since been to counselling for his addiction, and as a result he has not been to a betting shop.

"He also said that he'd started a forum against the gambling industry, and campaigns to try to highlight the problems that gamblers face.

"His Honour Judge Nicholls recognised the distress and concern that Baptista's actions could have caused to staff and any customers, plus the cost of the attacks  to William Hill.

"Baptista was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid community work, and a restraining order was imposed on him, that states he must not go within 10 metres of any William Hill betting shop or approach any known William Hill employee, directly or indirectly."