Northern Ireland news

Man who stole from employer to fund gambling addiction spared jail

Stuart Kennedy (25) was handed a six-month sentence, suspended for two years

A BELFAST man who stole £6,500 from his employer to fund his gambling addiction wept in court today as he was spared jail.

Stuart Kennedy (25) 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 - stole money which he then gambled at a local Ladbrokes.

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

He was the only employee who had access, and was the sole holder of the key and a unique pin code needed to open the till. 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, 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 Kennedy's offending was a grave breach of trust - but noted that due to his 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 Kennedy's shame and regret for what he did, which was set against a backdrop of a "very difficult and crippling gambling addition".

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 criminal record and the fact all the money had been paid back.

The judge also noted Kennedy 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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