THE former manager of the RAF Association Club in Grays has been ordered to pay back the Â£4,000 he stole from the charity earlier this year.
Shame-faced John Stevenson, 50, of St George’s Avenue, Grays, appeared unrepresented at Basildon Magistrates’ Court on Monday, where he pleaded guilty to stealing takings from the Southend Road club.
Stevenson was employed as the club steward and manager in November 2013, and was described as trustworthy by chairman Jim Gooding. However in August Mr Gooding discovered that money which should have been paid into the bank in July had been stolen.
He confronted Stevenson, who initially denied the theft but later confessed – claiming he stole out of desperation to pay off other debts.
An agreement was made that he would continue in his role and pay back Â£100 a week, but on 25 August he pilfered a further Â£150 from the takings and was instantly dismissed.
In court a clearly emotional Stevenson said: “Bailiffs had started catching up with me from years ago and I was under a lot of pressure to pay them back.
“I panicked and I’ve regretted it ever since. I let Mr Gooding down.
“I have a new job now and I want to pay back what I took as soon as I can.
“All I can do is apologise to the RAFA and everyone involved. I wish I’d never done it.”
Chair of the bench Ms Karen Shorter called the offence a “serious breach of trust” but took into account Stevenson’s clean record and sentenced him to a 12 month community order including 250 hours of unpaid work. He must also pay back the Â£4,125.23 he took from the RAFA as well as a Â£60 victim surcharge and Â£85 legal costs. It was agreed that he will pay the money back at a rate of Â£50 per week.
Speaking after sentencing, Mr Gooding told the Enquirer: “He got on really well to begin with and seemed trustworthy – we wouldn’t have hired him otherwise.
“It was such a shock when I found out he’d been pinching money from us, I never would have expected it. You don’t steal from a charity – it’s unheard of.
“I’m happy he’s going to pay the money back, it’ll take years but at least we’ll get it back. I’m just really disappointed in him. I trusted him and he let me down.
“All we can do now is carry on the good work we’ve been doing. It’s a hard blow to swallow but we must pick ourselves up and continue.”