A CHEF who pocketed the cash from a wedding bash, then tried to blame the bride and groom, has been spared jail by a crown court judge.

Matthew Patterson-Farnworth, 41, had been placed in charge of taking bookings at Burnley’s Masonic Hall, the town’s crown court was told.

But when his bosses questioned what had happened to the proceeds from Trevor and Deborah Taylorson’s reception, he claimed he had been given a dud cheque.

Prosecutor Peter Scott said Burnley Masonic Hall Company hired debt collection specialists, who eventually tracked down the Taylorsons.

Mr Tayorson insisted he had paid in full and when Colin Barton, one of the hall’s directors, confronted Patterson-Farnworth, he confessed to taking the money, the court heard.

Mr Scott said further enquiries revealed that Patterson-Farnworth had also taken £200 deposits from Michael Pollard and Marie Harwood for another wedding reception and the same sum from Danielle Hardy for a christening at the venue.

Before he left their employment, the chef was also found to have taken a £250 cash float from behind the bar, the court was told.

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Patterson-Farnworth, of Levant Street, Padiham, pleaded guilty to two charges of theft, at an earlier hearing before Burnley magistrates, who had committed him for crown court sentencing.

He was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to complete 15 days of rehabilitation activities with the probation service.

The chef, who had no previous criminal convictions, must also pay the Masonic Hall Company £3,836 in compensation, in monthly instalments starting in January.

Defence counsel Mark Stuart said his client, who had a number of health problems, was in rent arrears at the time.

He told the court the defendant’s financial position had become much worse after he moved from being a salaried employee to self-employed.

The court heard he managed bookings, taking 80 per cent for himself, out of which he had to pay for catering and staffing of events, while returning 20 per cent to the firm. This was said to have been changed later to a 70-30 per cent split.

Passing sentence, Judge Simon Medland QC said: “You saw your employer frankly as an easy target.”

The court heard Patterson-Farnworth was still a chef but now lived with his parents and had resolved his debt problems.