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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bar thefts 26/03 to 03/04 - update

I have made some progress in identifying who was involved in taking around £600 worth of drink from the bar two weeks ago. However, there are still many residents who have been named as being involved but who have not yet approached me. I think part of the reason for this may be that they do not realise that the drink they took were effectively stolen. Those who have approached me so far have explained that most people who took drinks may not have known exactly what was going on, and that there was certainly no malice in their actions. For this reason I will delay making a decision on the police and disciplinary proceedings until Tuesday 19 April, allowing you time to read this and think whether you were perhaps unwittingly involved. If you were given, sold, or took any drink at all from the bar in the week between Saturday 26 March and Sunday 3 April, please contact me urgently and tell me what you had and who gave it to you (or how you got it). The bar was not officially open during that week at all, so anyone who was “working” behind the bar should not have been there and any “free drinks” they gave away were stolen from the bar. Sometimes, bottles of spirits were brought out from behind the bar so again, you may not have realised that you were receiving something that had been stolen. Please, please come forward and tell me about what happened. I do need to recover the cost of the drink that was stolen and it will be fairest to everyone if that cost is shared between everyone who took a drink. If absolutely everyone owns up, the cost could be as little as £12 each. The number of people who have come forward so far cannot repay the entire cost with the repayments capped at a maximum £30 each (as per my letter at http://notice.connaught-hall.org.uk/); and if we cannot recover this money, the bar and the Residents’ Club itself will really struggle to stay in business this year.

Bar thefts 26/03 to 03/04

In the period between Saturday 26 March and Sunday 3 April, around £600 worth of spirits, wine, beer, and soft drinks were taken from the bar without being paid for. I understand that a large number of people (perhaps 30 or more) were involved.

The bottom line is that this matter has been reported to the police but I have asked them not to pursue a full investigation until I have had an opportunity to resolve the issue internally; if we can satisfactorily deal with this within the Hall, I will ask the police to drop it completely.

So I am writing to you with an amnesty of sorts, and a proposal that I hope will resolve this matter simply and fairly.

My concerns and expectations are:

1. The bar and Residents’ Club already have a very difficult financial position this year and absolutely cannot afford to shoulder the cost of the missing stock. We must recover these costs in order for the bar to remain financially viable, to continue paying for daily newspaper deliveries, to complete the library refurbishment, and to allow some social activities to be organised in term 3.

2. This incident highlights the potential problems of leaving the bar area open 24 hours for access to the sofas, pool table, and table football; I need to be reassured that I can continue allowing the bar area to be left open when the bar itself is not staffed.

3. I cannot understand what has happened to make so many people think it was okay to effectively break into the bar and take drinks without paying for them, and I am concerned about what this means for the community dynamic in Hall.

4. I need to know this is not going to happen again, and that those involved are prepared to own up to it and take some responsibility for their potentially very damaging actions. I have a good deal of respect for people who can admit to a mistake; but I take a dim view of those who try to cover up or lie about things.

5. If at all possible, I should prefer to avoid any formal disciplinary action and/or criminal proceedings.

If you were involved in any way in the theft of drinks from the bar last week, come forward and tell me about it before 17.00 on Tuesday 19 April.

Send me an email: tell me (a) what happened, (b) when, (c) who was there, (d) what – if anything – made you think this was okay to do, and (e) what we can do to prevent it from happening again. I will arrange a time to meet with you.

If you come forward voluntarily before 19 April, I will give you these guarantees:

1. Your financial liability to the Club will be capped to a maximum of £30. The more people that come forward to share the cost, the less your liability will be, so please also encourage others who were involved to approach me.

2. If disciplinary action is necessary, the maximum penalty I will apply is a written warning (apart from charging for the missing stock as per point 1).

3. If you hold an offer of accommodation at Connaught Hall next year, I will not withdraw your offer on the basis of this incident alone.

On 15 April, I will make a decision about what to tell the police about continuing their investigation, and whether to commence disciplinary proceedings against those I know were involved but have not come forward voluntarily.

A letter similar to this was distributed, by friends of those who were involved, directly to the suspects last week – I had hoped to avoid sending such a negative letter to the whole Hall – but that was met with a very disappointing response. I hope that is because the letter did not reach all the suspects, and that by sending it to everyone, we will see a better response.

If too few people come forward, I will regrettably have to pursue the criminal and/or disciplinary routes to resolve this situation. I will seek to apply the most severe penalties available to me for anyone who was involved but fails to tell me about it before 19 April.

I must also make a decision about the future of the bar in Hall, re-opening the bar area for pool and table football, and any future social events. I hope you can reassure me that the Connaught Hall community can learn from what happened between 26 March and 3 April, and ensure a positive future for our bar.