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Voluntary treasurer, from Hornchurch, who stole from Essex County RFU now rugby ‘pariah’

PUBLISHED: 10:41 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:08 28 March 2014

Walsh admitted writing cheques to himself. Picture: Michael Fresco

Walsh admitted writing cheques to himself. Picture: Michael Fresco

Archant

A civil servant who stole nearly £9,000 from the Essex County Rugby Football Union (RFU) narrowly avoided jail after a judge heard he is now a “pariah” in the rugby community.

Eugene Walsh, 50, took cash while completing the yearly accounts as a voluntary treasurer.

Walsh, of Craigdale Road, Hornchurch, blew some on a trip and a few possessions but there was no evidence of “living the high life”, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

Judge Neil Sanders told Walsh, who has since lost his job with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs: “Such was the degree of trust that you were given cheques that had already been signed by your other signatory for you to complete and pay out as appropriate.

“The result of your dishonesty was that a considerable amount of work had to be done by the Essex County RFU and extra time expended by other people in voluntary positions.

“I accept the money was not used for high living and it began from a situation where you were under pressure – that you were not keeping accounts properly and that you then took the opportunity to steal the money.

Tragedy

“The result of this offence is a tragedy for your family and a grave one for the Essex County RFU as somebody they trust abused that position.”

Judge Sanders sentenced Walsh to serve 15 months in prison but suspended the term for 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay £780 in prosecution costs and perform 180 hours unpaid work in the community.

Walsh was caught out when fellow Essex County RFU member Ivor Smith raised concerns.

A full report was ordered and it uncovered a number of anomalies, including cheques which could not be accounted for.

The first cheque written to himself was taken in October 2010 while the next 11 were taken from June 2011 to May 2012.

Walsh claimed the money was taken as expenses and he had simply not followed procedure.

The money has been paid back by Walsh but he has lost his standing in the rugby world after 44 years playing, coaching and administrating.

Richard Atkins QC, defending Walsh, said: “With his own stupidity and criminality he has destroyed himself”.

He was described as a “pariah in the rugby community”.

Walsh admitted a single count of theft while a second count of false accounting was ordered to lie on the court file.

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