A man who has been employed at a working men’s club since the age of 14 nearly brought it to a halt after stealing £11,000.
James Barker, 23, of Barley Cop Road, Lancaster, was employed in a financial role at the Jubilee Working Men’s club in Slyne Road, Torrisholme, Morecambe, which almost had to cease trading after 80 years, Preston Crown Court was told.
The court heard heard on one occasion when asked about the state of affairs he replied: “ I can tell you now its not in my a*se pocket.”
But he later admitted theft by an employee following a two year probe.
Barker had worked firstly as a glass collector then bar person and then in February 2011 he started part time, elected as the club secretary before helping with bookkeeping when another member of staff fell ill.
Prosecuting, Richard Archer said other staff became the targets of rumour and gossip.
He said: “In February 2013 when the bookkeeper was off work through illness it was decided Mr Barker would stand in and effectively take over the running of the financial affairs of the club.
“They would communicate on a weekly basis.
“It came to the club’s attention in August 2013 there were issues with the accounts and a discrepancy with what they had expected to be shown in the ledger or accounts and the frequency with which money was being taken to the bank.
“He was asked to explain and account for the discrepancies and he said he was struggling in his role, that the accounting methods were complicated and disorganised.
“But the club investigated matters further.”
The court heard they brought in an accountant to look at what had gone on, who found cheques and money the club had received had not been recorded in the ledgers.
There was a 24 day period where no money was paid in at all.
He had also been paying himself an extra wage not authorised by the club, overpaying himself £2,145 between March and August 2013.
In September 2013 the Club and Institute Union were called in to investigate independently and there was a formal disciplinary hearing in which he was dismissed.
The office was searched after he was sacked and it came to light a wallet used by him contained a number of betting slips.
His bank account was examined and there were various cash deposits made.
He said they were the proceeds of successful bets. One, for £3,000, was substantiated by Betfred but others were not.
Wearing a blue suit, Barker, whose family members hold roles within the club, began to cry as his late grandfather, who was linked to the club, was mentioned.
The court heard it had cost the club further money to investigate the theft, and affected the club’’s reputation with suppliers who had not been paid.
Judge Pamela Badley said: “ This is a case where a small institution has been greatly affected by dishonesty.”
She told him she was “not impressed” that he had waited two years to take action to pay the money back.
She adjourned his sentence for issues surrounding paying the money back to be discussed and he will next appear for sentence on November 24.
Defending, Jonathan Lally said: “ He needs to make some concrete proposals. This is an extremely sad case because he has a significant family link to the club.
“He has had gambling issues.”