A Belfast judge has urged a gambler to seek professional help for his addiction after freeing him on a suspended jail term for stealing almost £20,000 from his forgiving employer.
Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told Gary McCallum that he needed “assistance”, while also advising him, “you can’t fight addiction by yourself”.
The Belfast Crown Court judge said given the totality of mitigating circumstances, he was prepared to suspend the 51-year-old’s 16-month sentence for three years.
McCallum admitted two charges of theft from the confectionery firm where he worked as a delivery driver.
Judge Miller said that McCallum, from Drumadoon Square in Dundonald, had “shown himself to be contrite and remorseful”, had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and to date had made “real efforts” to repay his bosses, and hoped to do so in full.
Prosecution lawyer Simon Jenkins said that McCallum’s job involved not only delivering confectionery, but also collecting monies from customers.
He also told the court that on two separate occasions between March 2014 and June the following year, McCallum admitted “pocketing” over £19,000.
Mr Jenkins said that when initially uncovered, after taking over £15,000, his employers allowed him to keep his job, while McCallum agreed to repay the debt at £125 per week.
However, Mr Jenkins revealed that McCallum went on stealing, taking over £4,000. At this point he was sacked and police were called in.
McCallum later told detectives he had used the monies to fund his gambling addiction which had “taken over his life”.
Defence barrister Mark Farrell said that McCallum’s father had been a heavy gambler and “regrettably this passed from father to son”, but fortunately for him he was attempting to deal with his addiction and had not placed a bet in the last 18 months.
Mr Farrell said that McCallum’s employers “had been more than fair”, but that he “could not help himself and the temptation to line his own pockets ... to fund this crippling gambling problem that he had”.
He added that they were unsophisticated thefts for which McCallum was “extremely remorseful and regretful”.
“I just can’t apologise enough, it’s just so bad,” McCallum later told detectives.