A BASINGSTOKE hospital worker has been jailed after he stole more than £56,000 to fund his gambling addiction.
Winchester Crown Court heard that Paul Ball, 49, felt “entitled” to the money because he had been demoted within Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – resulting in a pay cut of £6,000 per year.
Father-of-three Ball, pictured, stowed some of the takings from the hospital cafeteria, where he worked, in his car and briefcase – avoiding detection for six months.
But his theft spree was finally rumbled – and now he has paid the price by being jailed for 18 months.
Prosecuting, Simon Edwards said Ball had initially been working as a supervisor in the cafeteria at the hospital, in Aldermaston Road, but that he had been demoted to operative in 2011. With the change in position, his salary dropped from £40,000 a year to £34,000.
The court heard that Ball stole a total of £56,233.39 between April and September last year after his addiction to gambling spiralled out of control.
The prosecution said he was able to get away with it for so long because suspicions about money going missing that were raised by his colleagues were reported only to him.
Mr Edwards told how cash would be counted and put into bags, which would then be labelled with how much money they contained.
Although two employees should then take the bags to the cashier's office, Mr Edwards said Ball would do it alone and take entire bags, rather than taking some money from each, making the crime hard to detect.
Mr Edwards said: “On the face of it, the deception was not apparent to the cashier.”
A delay in the money being handled by the cashier on occasion sometimes caused further confusion.
Ball was eventually rumbled when a fraud investigator was brought in.
Mr Edwards said: “It became apparent that money that should have been taken to the cashier had not been.”
Sinead Willox, defending Ball, who pleaded guilty to theft, said he had not gambled since September and added he had been “almost relieved” when he was caught out.
She said: “He is totally embarrassed by his actions, He has brought shame both on himself and his wife and three children.”
She added that Ball, of Derwent Close, Horndean, had been seeking help for his gambling addiction.
Judge Keith Cutler told Ball, a man of previous good character: “It's very sad that you find yourself here now before me having committed a very serious offence.”
Donna Green, deputy chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This case demonstrates that the trust will not tolerate theft and fraud committed within, or against, the NHS and will seek to prosecute those responsible for such crimes whenever possible.
“The sentence shows the seriousness with which the courts view such matters and should serve as a deterrent to others tempted to commit similar crimes against the NHS.
“NHS resources are precious and must be protected. Action is currently being taken to recover the monies that were stolen.”