Shrewsbury Town worker who stole £18,000 from club avoids jail

A Shrewsbury Town FC worker with a gambling habit who stole sums totalling £18,000 from the club has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Montgomery Waters Meadow
Montgomery Waters Meadow

Richard Hill blamed anxiety, excessive drinking and debts when he confessed all to the police after the matters came to light in 2017.

The 38-year-old was a promotions assistant at Montgomery Waters Meadow when it emerged that he was offering discount cash deals to fans in the club's Sovereign membership scheme for services including hospitality tickets and mascot appearances, then pocketing the money.

Hill was also helping himself to takings of between £20 to £40 from the club raffle per game and sold parking spaces for £200 despite being paid £26,000 a year, rising to £40,000 with commission.

Mr Graham Russell, prosecuting, told the town's crown court that colleagues became suspicious when Hill was seen accepting envelopes containing cash not subsequently recorded.

Checks found that one fan cancelled his membership direct debit after being offered a cash deal by Hill. The club had a £6.5 million turnover was also forced to honour a cheaper mascot fee to one family than the £150 normally charged.

Mr Russell said Hill, who was eventually suspended by club bosses and escorted from the premises before resigning, did not have a lavish lifestyle and "accepts he had squandered" the money on booze and gambling.

Anxiety

In his police interview in February 2018, Hill said that he suffered from anxiety following the death of his best friend in 2016. He told officers he felt "ashamed and embarrassed" by his actions.

Mr Russell said: "He took to drink and gambling. He had a £105,000 mortgage and £40,000 in unsecured debts and by 2018 he was in debt management but could only pay a tenth of what he intended,"

Hill became a regular customer at a William Hill betting shop which he visited up to five times a week, spending £500 in cash on terminals offering fixed odds, Mr Russell added.

"It was the descent of a man of good character to one who consumed far too much alcohol and becoming addicted to gambling," he said.

Mitigating, Mr Mark Hartson asked that Hill, who admitted an offence of theft at a previous hearing, be given full credit for his plea.

He added that the delay in the matter being brought to court should also be taken into consideration.

Judge Anthony Lowe told Hill: "Let me make it clear. I have no sympathy for you whatsoever. Nevertheless, to have this hanging over your head for two years is powerful mitigation. I have to reflect that."

Hill, of Manor Road, Ammanford, in Dyfed, Wales, was sentenced to a 12-month jail term suspended for two years, 180 hours unpaid work and ordered to attend 25 rehabilitation activity days.

Judge Lowe added: "You are very lucky to get away with a suspended sentence. Ordinarily I would have had no hesitation about giving you a suspended sentence, but the delay is too great to ignore and this is the result,"

There was no order for compensation.

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