Club treasurer stole £37k over just five weeks

A SOCIAL club treasurer frittered its funds on gambling and drink, a court heard.

Gary Atkinson stole £37,100 belonging to Sacriston Workmen’s Club in just five weeks.

Durham Crown Court was told that as suspicion started to fall on him for the losses he even took money from the club on the morning he was to have gone before the committee to account for the shortfall in October, last year.

Ian West, prosecuting, said weeks earlier club secretary Stuart Pinkney noted no funds were paid into the club account for two weeks.

Atkinson passed it off as something to do with the bank, which he claimed was looking into the problem.

Mr Pinkney spoke to Atkinson a few weeks later, asking if he had sorted out the discrepancy with the bank.

He told him he had a meeting at the bank that Friday, but at the time Atkinson stated, Mr Pinkney attended the bank to discover no such meeting was taking place.

Atkinson failed to attend a subsequent meeting with the secretary and then, when he was due to present the books to the club committee, it emerged he had been to the Edward Street premises earlier that day and taken a further £40 takings from a desk.

Mr West said Atkinson was evasive about a further supposed meeting at the bank and so police were informed.

When Mr Pinkney informed him he had reported it to police, Mr West said Atkinson replied with an apologetic message, saying: “Everything was getting on top of him”, followed by what appeared to be a suicide note.

Police were informed of the message and after that Mr Pinkney received a further missive from Atkinson, “effectively admitting what had been going on.”

Accountants estimated five weeks’ worth of takings were missing, plus £9,500 from a prize draw and money from another fundraiser.

Atkinson was arrested and made admissions, saying he had gambling and general money problems.

He said he gambled more to try to cover his losses.

Mr West added: “He appears to have been simply trying to put off the evil day.”

A business impact statement read to the court stated that the money would have helped to provide a buffer for the club, which like many similar premises, was struggling with the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The defendant, 42, of Beechwood Close, Sacriston, admitted a charge of theft.

Lewis Kerr, for Atkinson, said: “Unfortunately, he followed the path of trying to rob Peter to pay Paul and it was never going to work. He has recognised that now.”

Judge James Adkin said the crime “clearly” crosses the custody threshold, but as Atkinson has largely kept out of trouble in recent years and poses little risk to the public sentence could be suspended.

He imposed a 19-month sentence, suspended for two years, with a six-month 7pm to 6am home curfew, plus 30 activity days working with the Probation Service.

The Northern Echo | Durham