Thanks. providing you are able to evidence (in the event that your friend attempted to deny either having the equipment at all, or alternatively dispute the inventory of equipment in his possession at the time) the equipment was in his possession and he has failed to return it, and from what you say, you believe that you could do so on the force of the social media and police reports, then you could contemplate a county court claim for recover of the cost of replacement together with interest and costs.
From what you say, you have already replaced the equipment and if this is the case, will be able to evidence the replacement cost by reference to receipts. before issuing any claim in the County Court, it is necessary to write to your friend by email or letter, adivsing him that if he fails to repay you the amount demanded that you will issue legal proceedings in the county court and give him a minimum of seven days to respond - you can choose to give longer if you wish.
if you are unable to settle the matter between you, the simplest way to issue proceedings is online at www.money claim.gov.uk. There is a fee to pay of £185 on this amount but this is recoverable if you are successful. if your friend is not replied to the claim, you can request automatic judgement after 14 days. If he defends the claim, it will be listed for hearing and a further fee of £335 would be payable (also recoverable). You can claim interest at 8% per annum on the amount demanded, the above issue costs and reasonable costs you incur in attending any hearing - travel, lost income etc within limits.
If you are able to obtain judgement, and he continues to refuse to pay, you can take a variety of enforcement actions such as appoint bailiffs, apply for deduction of earnings from income and so on. You do not need a solicitor to represent you in the small claims court.
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