JAN MOIR: Who says crime doesn't pay? Ask this pair of grifters

JAN MOIR: Who says crime doesn’t pay? Ask the pair of smirking grifters fined £1 for a £150,000 fraud

Nicola and Simon Nightingale laughed as they left Cardiff Crown Court this week. As well they might. After swindling £150,000 from chef Stephen Terry, who owns The Hardwick restaurant in Abergavenny, the couple were fined a nominal £1 each.

One pound each! That wouldn’t even buy you a cup of tea or an extra dollop of ice cream at any restaurant in the entire country.

This proceeds-of-crime hearing followed the original court case in May, when the married couple were given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to do 100 hours of community sentence.

An examination of their finances found there are no releasable assets, so nothing was recouped to reimburse Mr Terry. Why? They had spent it all, of course. Who says crime doesn’t pay? It certainly did for this pair of smirking grifters.

This week shattered chef Mr Terry – who has worked his fingers to the bone in a lifetime of kitchens and service – admitted he was disappointed there was no custodial sentence in the first place. He added that it was ‘an absolute joke’.

After swindling £150,000 from chef Stephen Terry, who owns The Hardwick restaurant in Abergavenny, Nicola and Simon Nightingale were fined a nominal £1 each, writes Jan Moir. Pictured: The couple in May this year 

Indeed it is, but no one is laughing. Except the Nightingales.

You have to wonder what has gone wrong in this country when someone can steal a six-figure sum from a hard-working businessman, pushing him to the brink of bankruptcy, but escape any real punishment. What the hell is going on?

This is how it happened. In 2018, Mr Terry hired Nicola Nightingale as a financial administrator. Flat out in his kitchen, he needed help with the accounts, and hiring an expert seemed a sensible move.

It certainly was, only his bad luck was to hire her; it was like inviting a vulture to the funeral feast and tying a bib around its disgusting neck.

Within two years, Nightingale had expertly bled him dry, fleecing his business of every penny she could get her hands on. A worried Mr Terry discovered what was going on only when the pandemic shut his restaurant-with-rooms, and he had time to take a good look at the books. What he saw was horrifying.

Nightingale had paid herself inflated wages; made payments into her and her husband’s accounts; took out two £40,000 loans in Mr Terry’s name; generated fake invoices from fictitious suppliers; and raided the business’s pension pot to the tune of £10,000.

Funds totalling nearly £47,000 had been transferred into her husband’s account and the family had spent the money on luxury goods and five-star holidays. Holidays that, Mr Terry wryly noted, he could never afford himself.

In court, Nightingale pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position while her husband argued he thought all the money barrelling into his account was simply her wages. He was found guilty of acquiring criminal property, but none of this was enough to send either of them to jail.

This seems even more ridiculous in a world where the police can come knocking at your door for misgendering a Starbucks barista; where you can be arrested and fined £1,000 for having a woodburning stove; and where a woman can be convicted and jailed for manslaughter after shouting at a cyclist to get off the pavement.

In this awful, topsy-turvy world, we have become sorely used to the police not bothering to investigate household crimes and any thefts which they deem minor. More recently they have also been turning a blind eye to the looting of High Street stores, as shoplifting has become ‘downgraded’ as a crime.

Yet even in this hellscape, one would have hoped that the theft of a six-figure sum from a small business would merit retribution and at least a blip on the scales of justice, but no. Not this time. I don’t know Mr Terry personally, but I know him by reputation, and over the years have eaten in his restaurants. He is one of those proper, hard-working, old-school chefs who loves fresh food and good ingredients, prepares them with care and charges his customers a reasonable price to enjoy them.

He’s been described as a celebrity chef who has been on television, someone who was best man at Gordon Ramsay’s wedding. That is all true, but it doesn’t really explain who he is or his dedication and craftsmanship. In fact, it makes him sound like a poser with a saucepan range in Harrods and an outpost in Dubai, but nothing could be further from the truth.

He’s the kind of chef who is still up to his elbows in onions most days of the week and, at the age of 55, was probably fondly eyeing a nice retirement on the horizon.

That dream has been shattered. His business ‘barely survived’ the Nightingales’ pillage, and now he has to start from scratch again.

The restaurant industry is full of big-name swindlers, desultory chains and downright chancers who charge a lot for inferior produce and don’t care about customers.

Someone like Stephen Terry – an honest chef-patron working all hours to do his best by everyone – is a diamond among the spice dust, someone whose endeavour should be supported and respected by the courts, not insulted.

Today, Mr Terry must be feeling very let down by the justice system, which seems to have wronged him all over again. For if this serious crime against him and his restaurant is not going to be properly punished, where on Earth does that leave us all?

There’s nothing faux about Sienna’s style 

One day you’re starring in a film in your underwear, dating Jude Law but having a fling with Daniel Craig – no one would ever raise an eyebrow about that, Sienna, we understand. 

The next you’re in a yellow midaxi and scarf, being hailed as the new face of Marks & Spencer. 

The new Sienna Miller (pictured) collection for M&S is fabulous; if this is part of the High Street store’s renaissance, no wonder it is doing well

If that makes you sound like a frump, nothing could be further from the truth. The new Sienna Miller collection for M&S is fabulous; if this is part of the High Street store’s renaissance, no wonder it is doing well. 

It’s all highly covetable – I’m just pausing to order Sienna’s darling waistcoat – and reasonably priced. 

My only query is with the faux shearling jacket. A fashion friend once told me never to buy ‘faux’ anything. If you can’t afford the real deal, she said, use your imagination and get something else. Is she right?

The wedding drama we all want to see 

The absurdly silly lives of the rich and famous, part 459.

Brooklyn Beckham and wife Nicola Peltz have settled the lawsuit with their wedding planners. The bride’s billionaire father sued over their failure to return his £126,000 deposit when they were sacked after only nine days. The previous wedding planner had left after working for a year on the wedding.

Who said what to who about the napery, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the place settings, the order of service and the colour of the ribbons?

Brooklyn Beckham and wife Nicola Peltz have settled the lawsuit with their wedding planners

Call me shallow, but I want this developed into a ten-part docu-drama, starring Margot Robbie as Nicola and Fozzie Bear as Brooklyn.

Posh could play herself, but she’s too busy not making a wedding dress. Please someone, make this happen.

Will this be Pacino’s happy ever after?

Some good news at last. Al Pacino, 83, and Noor Alfallah, 29, have NOT split three months after having a baby together.

Rumours that the mother had filed for physical custody to pave way for child support payments, while the father (who is old enough to be the mother’s grandfather) continues with his indulged, millionaire movie-star life are not true. All is harmonious in the Pacino camp, it seems. Al has four children and has never married, while Noor is rumoured to have briefly dated Mick Jagger a few years ago; now they seem to have found a connection and a purpose.

Perhaps we have underestimated a couple who seem to have exerted little thought on bringing a new life into this world. They got together in April 2022 and the reading on my CTC (Celebrity Trimester Calculator) suggests Noor must have become pregnant around the moment Al said ‘waiter, the check, please’ on their second date.

Can this relationship possibly have a future and a happy ending? Fingers crossed.

Al Pacino, 83, and Noor Alfallah, 29, have not split three months after having a baby together

Birmingham City Council has been declared effectively bankrupt after years of foolish spending on all sorts of nonsense, including a botched IT system and silly street signs which are supposed to be inclusive, such as Humanity Close and Inspire Avenue.

City councils are supposed to do good, not make themselves feel good. No wonder they have ended up on Dead End Street.

I am loving Penny Mordaunt’s punishment beatings, regularly handed out to the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons.

This week the Hammer of the Nats was at it again, pointing out that the economic growth in Scotland was slower than in England; that Victorian diseases such as rickets have returned to Scottish cities; that rats are running amok in Glasgow; that the Scottish taxpayers would have to stump up £70 million for the ‘smelting business debacle’; that the £33 million that was ring-fenced for Scottish farmers has gone AWOL; and that the SNP has got to stop blaming everyone else for their mess.

‘I look forward to next week what these excuses might be. The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Highland Clearances, the Hundred Years’ War?’ she sniffed.

Mordaunt by name, mordant by nature and even more impressive without her sword.

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