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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Library worker stole rare books
Norman Buckley
Buckley was dismissed from his job in March this year
A library assistant who stole rare books valued at 175,000 to sell on the internet has been given 250 hours' community service.

Norman Buckley, 44, of Hulme, took more than 455 ancient books, posters and documents while working as an assistant at Manchester's Central Library.

The books he stole included a 16th Century Chaucer edition worth 35,000.

At the city's Crown Court Buckley was sentenced to 15 months in prison to be suspended for two years.

The illegal haul also included a 1654 publication of 17th Century poet John Donne's Elegies valued at 1,800.

Stolen books
Every time you offered a book for sale, you were breaking the trust that had been placed in you
Judge Clement Goldstone

Buckley sold 44 of the books on internet auction site eBay, but most of the books were recovered by police at his flat in Hulme.

He was dismissed from his job in March this year.

Judge Clement Goldstone QC told Buckley his sentence was suspended because he had helped police find the books, which the judge described as part of the city's "literary heritage".

"Every time you offered a book for sale, you were breaking the trust that had been placed in you," he said.

"The ultimate loss to the city and its heritage may have been measured, if it can be measured at all, in the thousands of pounds rather than the tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"You have brought shame on yourself and your family by your behaviour."

Book expert

Police said the theft was brought to light by an antiquarian books expert who spotted a copy of John Donne's poetry dating back to 1654 for sale on eBay.

The expert contacted Manchester Central Library after spotting its seal on photographs of the book.

Library staff checked the seller's details against their employment records, and notified police.

Buckley was arrested at his home on 31 March 2006 on suspicion of theft from an employer and he later admitted in court to 10 charges, with 445 taken into consideration.

Manchester Central Library
The council is confident it will recover the rest of the books

Other books found in his flat included a book of letters about the death of Louis XVI and a 1675 edition of English historian Willam Camden's The History of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princess Elizabeth.

A volume of the political works of celebrated poets Samuel Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats was also discovered.

Ch Insp Mark Lee, of Greater Manchester Police, said the thefts amounted to a significant breach of public trust.

Manchester City Council said a thorough review of security at the library had been carried out to protect other valuable works.

Assistant Chief Executive Vicky Rosin said: "We are also working closely with the police and eBay to recover the items sold by Norman Buckley.

"As items were sold to buyers from across the world we have been working with law enforcement agencies in America and Europe to recover the items and remain confident that most of the items will be returned to Manchester Central Library."

A look at some of the stolen books

Librarian theft sentence delayed
25 Aug 06 |  Manchester

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