Treasurer given three-year sentence for charity theft

Martin Whatling stole £400,000 from Queen Elizabeth Hospital league of friends

A chartered accountant who stole more than £400,000 from a charity has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Martin Whatling, 55, admitted to the theft of £406,260 from the league of friends of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, between January 2002 and March 2007.

Whatling worked as an unpaid treasurer at the volunteer-run charity for 22 years.
 
The sum he stole over five years is about a fifth of the £2m raised by the charity since it was founded in 1953 to help pay for equipment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Whatling, of Gedney Dyke, Lincolnshire, also pleaded guilty to providing false information in the charity's statement of its accounts.

Norwich Crown Court heard he had taken the funds to help his struggling accountancy business.

Whatling has repaid about half of the money and said he intended to pay back the outstanding £191,260.

But James Morgan, a solicitor at Hayes and Storr, which represented the charity, said it didn't hold much hope of getting any more money back.

Morgan said the charity was relieved the case was over and felt the jail term was "commensurate with the crime".

He added: "They are disappointed that a man who had been a treasurer and respected confidant for 22 years had stolen from them."

Morgan said Whatling had been able to conceal his crimes for so long because his long service had built up trust, and because he was able to mislead colleagues by skilfully moving money around various accounts.

Morgan said procedures at the charity had been "extremely tightened up" since the deception came to light.

Judge Philip Curl told Whatling: "You abused the trust of volunteers who signed blank cheques for you to fill in. This makes it hard for charities to raise funds as public confidence in them is hit."

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