YouTube sandwich saboteur escapes jail

A sandwich bar worker sacked after footage of him stuffing lettuce up his nose appeared on YouTube has narrowly avoided a jail sentence.

Richard Benjamin Shannon, who was also seen putting salad leaves in his mouth and spitting them out, was arrested last year after a "disgusted" customer recognised him on the internet.

The irate woman went to the Subway branch in Brownhills, West Midlands, and hurled a chair at him after seeing the footage, Walsall magistrates' heard. Shannon, 22, from Brownhills, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to contaminating or interfering with goods with intent to cause economic loss, alarm or injury.

He claimed the incident, which his friend filmed on a mobile phone early last year, had been a prank and that the lettuce, which had gone back into a tray used to make sandwiches, had been discarded. But the magistrates' chairman Elizabeth Baugh, who viewed the footage, said the incident had caused anxiety and distress.

"Despite your previous good character, your actions merit a custodial sentence," she said. "However, due to your early guilty plea and the fact you have shown remorse for your actions, we are imposing a community order."

Shannon, who had faced a jail term of up to six months, was ordered to do 300 hours of community service. Mrs Baugh said the bench had considered the case seriously and that Shannon had been in a position of trust.

"Your actions caused great distress, not only to the public who consume this food, but also to the company. I think you have learnt a very serious lesson. You have been extremely lucky."

Shannon's solicitor, Sheila Hicklin, suggested that the offence was a sign of Shannon's immaturity. She said that the angry customer confronted Shannon inside a toilet cubicle at the shop last November.

The prosecution and media interest had had a profound effect on Shannon, who was now unemployed, she said.