Belfast Telegraph

Bank teller stole to fund gambling habit

Stuart Kennedy was handed a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, after he admitted stealing money from the Nationwide Building Society (stock photo)
Stuart Kennedy was handed a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, after he admitted stealing money from the Nationwide Building Society (stock photo)

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 25-year-old Belfast man who stole £6,500 from his employer to fund his gambling addiction wept in court yesterday as he was spared jail.

Stuart Kennedy was handed a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, after he admitted stealing money from the Nationwide Building Society.

Belfast Crown Court heard that between April 23 and May 4 last year Kennedy, a cashier at the Carrickfergus branch of the building society, stole money which he then gambled at a local Ladbrokes bookmakers.

A prosecutor said that last May an internal investigation was launched within the Nationwide branch after it emerged that £6,500 was missing from the till operated by Kennedy.

He was the only employee who had access to the till, and was the sole holder of the key and a unique PIN code needed to open it. When a fraud investigator with the Nationwide questioned Kennedy, he initially denied the theft but admitted having a gambling problem.

He later confessed that over the short period of offending he was stealing around £1,000 a day which he then gambled.

When CCTV footage from the branch was viewed it showed Kennedy taking the money.

When arrested by police he admitted the theft and said it was his intention to replace what he took, with his winnings.

The prosecutor then confirmed to Judge Philip Gilpin QC that Kennedy, from Castle Avenue in Belfast, has now paid back the full amount.

Defence barrister Mark Farrell said it was accepted that his client's offending was a grave breach of trust, but he noted that due to Kennedy having made repayment, "Nationwide are not out of pocket, thankfully".

Mr Farrell said Kennedy was a man with a good working background and from a stable, supportive family. The barrister also spoke of his client's shame and regret for what he did, which was set against a backdrop of a "very difficult and crippling gambling addiction".

Passing sentence, Judge Gilpin told Kennedy that while this type of offending usually attracted a custodial sentence, he was taking into account his lack of a criminal record and the fact all the money he stole has since been paid back.

The judge also noted that the defendant has sought treatment for his gambling addiction.

As he handed Kennedy a six-month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years, Judge Gilpin warned the defendant that if he offended over the next two years, he faced being sent to jail.

Before leaving the dock a tearful Kennedy addressed the judge and said "thank you".

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