Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedfordshire rugby boss changes plea to admit theft

A former rugby club chairman has changed his plea on day three of his trial for theft and admitted his guilt.

Matthew Norris, 44, of Polgrave Road, Bedford, initially denied stealing from Bedford Swifts rugby club over a three-year period.

He pleaded guilty to theft in a statement at Luton Crown Court.

He was given an eight-month prison sentence suspended for a year, 150 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £2,000 compensation to the club.

He must pay a further £2,000 to the Royal Bank of Scotland and £3,500 costs. The court confiscated £1,500 of his own money.

Judge John Bevan QC said: "The lack of organisation at the club and the lack of organisation in the bank meant there was a sweetie jar for you and you took advantage of it."

Norris paid himself £9,647 by cheques that he was not authorised to sign under a bank mandate.

'Lack of vigilance'

The Royal Bank of Scotland reimbursed the club.

The shortfall was only discovered when new treasurer, Simon Bunday, was appointed and carried out the first audit for four years.

Norris had stepped down by then.

Fred Ferguson, defending, said Norris now admitted his guilt but disputed the exact extent of the theft.

He still maintains he paid out some expenses from his own pocket and was entitled to be reimbursed.

Claudette Elliott, prosecuting, said: "He helped himself to club money while in office and took advantage of a lack of financial control and a lack of vigilance by the bank."

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