A GAMBLING addict stole a tray containing more than £1,000 from a city centre bookies.

Abdul Chaar took the cash from Betfred in St James’s Street in Brighton in an “opportunistic” crime to pay off his debts.

He snatched the cash tray and ran off with the money, but was caught on CCTV. After seeing a media appeal in The Argus, he said he was wracked with guilt and handed himself in to police.

At Brighton Magistrates’ Court the 30-year-old admitted the theft charge, and was ordered to pay back all the money he had stolen as compensation.

Suzanne Soros, prosecuting, said the incident happened on December 17.

She said: “A member of staff was aware of the defendant hanging around as a regular user of the premises, but didn’t think much of it.

“The defendant saw a machine being emptied, took the cash and made off, getting away. But there was good quality CCTV and a press release.

“He admitted to police he had taken the money and said it was opportunistic. He took the money to pay the people he owed from gambling debts.”

Jen Law, defending said that before the media alert, the shop and police had “no idea” who he was.

She said: “The guilt was eating away at him and he was not able to sleep at night. He took himself down to the police station and made a prepared statement.”

Chaar has signed forms to get himself barred from the betting shops, but when the shop changed from Coral to Betfred, details were not handed over because of data protection regulations, so he went there.

Ms Law said: “It was a stupid move, and he found himself spiralling downward again.”

Chaar has realised how low he went, and now lives back with his family who are helping him.

He has also got help from the Break Even gambling support group, and has stopped gambling, Ms Law said.

Magistrate John Stambridge said he has seen the steps Chaar has taken to stop gambling and seek help.

He said: “It is to your credit that you disclosed yourself as the thief to the police when your picture was put into the newspapers.

“We have to punish you for what you did, you cannot go around stealing from other people and from other businesses. It is totally inappropriate.”

Chaar, of New England Street in Brighton, was ordered to pay an £80 fine, £85 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

Magistrates also ordered him to pay more than £1,000 in compensation to Betfred.