A FORMER Students Union bar manager has avoided an immediate jail sentence after stealing more than £13,000 in takings to pay off his gambling debts.
Michael Poyner, who was employed by the Students Union helped himself to cash from the till at the Cheyney Road University Campus over five months from August last year, before staff became suspicious and called in auditors to investigate.
Poyner, 26, who admitted six counts of theft, was at the time battling mounting debts from payday loan companies due to a long-term gambling addiction, Chester Crown Court heard.
After a full internal investigation, Poyner, described as being “well liked and highly trusted”, by fellow university students and colleagues, resigned from his post as bar manager after confessing to bosses, claiming he intended to repay back every penny of the money which he had took from multiple tills.
On the last occasion, on January 10 this year, Poyner had stolen more than £8,000 from numerous tills.
He immediately resigned from his manager’s post, and the university called police who arrested him soon after. A search of his home revealed correspondence which proved Poyner had engaged in payday loans and debt recovery notices, said Maria Masselis, prosecuting.
Poyner, now living in North Road, Islington, London, told police he had been too ashamed to go to his family for help with his financial difficulties.
In a statement, the university said Poyner’s actions were “difficult to digest” in light of how the Student Union is a charitable organisation from which monies raised are used to run student services.
Peter Barnett, defending, said Poyner was of previous good character, and described him as a “very affable young man”.
He added: “Mr Poyner has never tried to hide this matter, he was very well trusted and in those circumstances he took advantage.
“He is full of remorse for what he has done to the people who entrusted him at the university, he feels great shame at the embarrassment he has caused to them. He has also had to tell his family and his partner about his wrongdoing.
He wants to apologise for his actions.”
Judge Rajeev Shetty sentenced Poyner to a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for two years as he believed Poyner’s actions had not been contrived or sophisticated, and he had shown remorse for his wrongdoing. He also took into consideration Poyner being of previous good character.
But he told Poyner: “The fact the money was used to try and keep afloat your debt demonstrates how easily some people can be seduced by the lure of gambling and payday loans.
“You have discovered to your own costs that dangerous course.”
Following sentencing, the university released a statement, saying: “As a charitable organisation, every pound raised by Chester Students’ Union is spent on running our student services which is why this theft is particularly difficult to digest. We therefore acted in accordance with our procedures and involved the police to send a clear message that such actions will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”
Poyner was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, pay £100 towards costs, and compensation to Chester University, the details of which had yet to be agreed before the Leader went to press.