A MAN found guilty of dishonestly receiving two motorsport helmets stolen from eco-businessman and football club chairman Dale Vince has been landed with a £5,000 legal bill.

Former builder Richard Cole was ordered to pay the money towards the £16,675 it has cost Mr Vince to fund a private prosecution against him.

Mr Vince, founder of Stroud-based Ecotricity and chairman of Forest Green Rovers, alleged that Cole, 49, had organised two burglaries at his home in Rodborough.

The Crown Prosecution Service had declined to proceed against Cole on the grounds of insufficient evidence which led to Mr Vince funding the prosecution himself.

It was alleged that Cole, of Tower Road South, Bristol, sent his teenage son and another youth to steal from the garage of Mr Vince’s home on two occasions.

Cole was also accused of dishonestly receiving two motorsport helmets which had been stolen from Mr Vince.

On Friday, after a four day trial at Gloucester Crown Court, a jury cleared Cole of conspiracy to burgle but convicted him of handling stolen goods.

Recorder Stephen Climie told Cole: “The jury has convicted you of coming into possession of two items that were undoubtedly stolen during a series of break-ins to the garage.

“Who took them and how you came in possession of them I do not know.”

Besides the £5,000 costs, Cole was also sentenced to an 18 month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work.

During the trial, the court heard that Cole had worked for Mr Vince as a builder at his home on Rodborough Common but ceased working for him in 2009 after they fell out.

The prosecution claimed during the trial that Cole sent his son his Jack, then 16 but now 18, with friend Kieran Marshall, who is the same age, to go into the unlocked garage of the house while Mr Vince was in the process of moving homes.

The two youths have accepted police cautions after admitting taking thousands of pounds worth of equipment from the garage.

In evidence, Jack Cole tearfully claimed that his father had put him up to the burglaries and even drove him to the second and helped him load the stolen items into his van, Matthew Harbinson, for the defence, said Cole, a former serviceman, had previous convictions for dishonesty but that they dated back to 1984, when he was a teenager and before he signed up. Mr Harbinson added that Cole could no longer work as a builder because of the adverse publicity the case had generated and was now working in the haulage industry.