FENLAND: Jail for man who stole £400,000 from the sick

PUBLISHED: 11:02 13 August 2009 | UPDATED: 09:13 02 June 2010

CAPTION; Photos of Martin Whatling from Gedney Dyke, arriving at King's Lynn Magistrates accused of stealing money from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital League of Friends.
PHOTO; Matthew Usher
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CAPTION; Photos of Martin Whatling from Gedney Dyke, arriving at King's Lynn Magistrates accused of stealing money from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital League of Friends. PHOTO; Matthew Usher COPY; LYNN OFFICE FOR; EDP NEWS COPYRIGHT; EDP pics © 2008 TEL; (01603) 772434

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A DISGRACED treasurer of a leading hospital charity, who systematically stole more than £400,000 from the sick to keep afloat his accountancy business, was yesterday jailed for three years. Judge Philip Curl said Martin Whatling s theft from the League of

A DISGRACED treasurer of a leading hospital charity, who systematically stole more than £400,000 from the sick to keep afloat his accountancy business, was yesterday jailed for three years.

Judge Philip Curl said Martin Whatling's theft from the League of Friends of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), in King's Lynn, eroded public confidence in charities.

Norwich Crown Court heard how Whatling, 55, of Gedney Dyke, near Long Sutton, stole more than £406,260 from the League of Friends over a five-year period to prop up his accountancy business and meet his unpaid tax bills.

Whatling worked for 22 years for the charity, which has raised more than £2 million to buy vital hospital equipment to help patients, since it was formed in 1953.

However, he betrayed his position of trust to siphon money from the charity into his own account.

When suspicions were aroused he tried to cover his tracks by taking out personal loans and repaying £215,000 of the cash.

Eventually his deception was uncovered, but it has still left the charity £190,000 out of pocket, which it is hoping to get back at a confiscation hearing later this year.

His actions have dealt a blow to the work of the League of Friends, but the charity's solicitor James Morgan reassured the public that it was back to business as normal and said procedures had been tightened up to ensure nothing of this kind happened again.

Father-of-four Whatling, of Main Road, Gedney Dyke, admitted theft from the charity between January 2002 until March 2007 and another charge of furnishing false information to the charity.

He also asked for the theft of £20,000 from a 73 year-old woman in Peterborough to be taken into consideration.

Jailing him, Judge Curl said: "The speed of the shame that accompanies your downfall and the ending of your professional career is a significant punishment in itself."

He accepted that for many years Whatling had carried out the work as treasurer honestly and that the money taken was not to fund a lavish lifestyle, but said: "Thefts of this kind makes it even harder for charities and fundraisers to raise money. It erodes public confidence in charities."

He said it had been a breach of trust for the League volunteers, patients and public who donated money.

David Wilson, prosecuting, said that Whatling was in a "high position of trust" and was authorised to make payments for equipment bought for the benefit of patients.

But instead he took cash and paid it into his own accountancy business account.

Mr Wilson said: "He was trying to keep afloat his accountancy business."

However, suspicions were aroused when invoices went unpaid, but Whatling made excuses for the late payments.

"He was stalling for time and fobbing people off."

Eventually his deception was uncovered and police were called in.

Mr Wilson said the matter had caused concern for other trustees of the League of Friends and matters had to be brought to a halt for a time while a detailed investigation was launched into the accounts.

However, since then the League was now back to normal and recent donations included new medical equipment and a digital camera for the maternity unit.

Samuel Magee, mitigating said that Whatling had "robbed Peter to pay Paul" but had since made every effort to repay the cash.

"He wants to clear that debt as soon as possible."

He said it was not a sophisticated theft as he was putting the money in to his own account.

He said that Whatling's wife suffered from ill health and he was also suffering from depression.

Afterwards Mr Morgan said that civil action would be considered for any amount owed after the confiscation hearing was completed.


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