Belfast Telegraph

Family ‘saves bacon’ of former Scout leader who stole £9,000 from troop

Thief: Ben Ross
Thief: Ben Ross

By Paul Higgins

A disgraced former Scout leader who stole around £9,000 from his Co Down troop has walked free from court after his family "saved his bacon" by paying back the money.

Ordering 23-year-old Ben Ross to complete 100 hours of community service along with a two-year probation order, Judge Piers Grant told the fraudster he is "not a decent person".

Labelling him "deceitful" and "selfish" for stealing money from 1st Comber Scouts, the Downpatrick Crown Court judge told Ross that, as the stolen money was being repaid by his family, "it is very clear that you have not actually suffered".

"I hope you pay back every single pound as your family has saved your bacon," Judge Grant said.

Ross, now with an address at Stubbers, Ockenden Road in Upminster, Essex, had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by abuse of position.

The court was told he used a debit card given to him by the Scout group to buy holidays, tickets, two drones, items on iTunes and to pay for electricity between November 2016 and July 2017.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court how Ross had been a member of 1st Comber Scouts since he was aged 10 and had risen up the ranks to become a leader.

It was the practice of the group to give leaders a debit card to pay for things needed by members, he said.

However, Ross was challenged about his spending by some of the other leaders in July 2016. He twice denied using the card for anything other than for the group before the full extent of his spending became known.

The court heard that Ross bought two drones at £1,300 which were later able to be sold as second hand for £590 after his spending was uncovered by an accountant.

Ross did pay back £2,000 in November 2017 and was asked to leave the group.

His barrister said that Ross had come to the court with a £7,000 banker's draft to pay the rest of the money owed to the scout group, revealing that it had been raised by Ross's extended family and included an overpayment to serve as a "donation to the group".

"It is very clear to me that this was just a purely deceitful, hypocritical act of selfishness on your part and that you took the money to spend it on yourself," declared Judge Grant.

He also told the defendant: "You are not a decent person. You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself."

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