A Working Men’s Club secretary who siphoned off nearly £3,000 into his own bank account to help ease his ‘dire’ financial problems has avoided jail.
Derek Barden held the ‘highly responsible’ role at the Rishton club for 18 months but was caught out after an audit of the accounts in October last year, a court heard.
The 56-year-old was found to have transferred £2,900 into his personal account and was then sent three letters from the club demanding an explanation.
Barden, of Knowles Street, Rishton, pleaded guilty at Burnley Crown Court to theft and was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months with 100 hours unpaid work.
David Clarke, prosecuting, told the court that the club account was used to ‘pay suppliers and buy beer’ and there was ‘no reason why that money should have been transferred’.
When Barden was challenged by the club he said he would pay the money back.
However when that didn’t happen he was sent two further warning letters before the police were alerted.
Mr Clarke said when arrested Barden initially ‘implied’ the club treasurer also had control of the accounts and that the ‘transfer must have been a mistake by one of them’.
However at the end of the police interview he confessed to the theft.
The court heard how Barden was unemployed after his struggling business went into liquidation.
Mr Clarke said Barden was in a ‘dire state’ financially and that the £2,900 would help his mortgage payments.
He told officers that once he received his pension he ‘intended to pay the money back’.
The prosecutor said the theft was aggravated because he held a position at the Commercial Street club which had a ‘high degree of trust’.
Sentencing, Recorder Neville Biddle said: “You are undoubtedly extremely ashamed and you have expressed genuine remorse.
"I’m confident that you will never appear before the courts again.”
Speaking after the hearing, the new club secretary Christopher Hope said Barden should have been jailed.
He said: “If we are not going to see the money back then he could rot in hell as far as we care.
"He should have been sent down simple as, never mind the community service. Everybody knows now what he’s done.”
Barden ‘adamant’ he will repay cash
Defence barrister Clare Thomas said Barden is ‘thoroughly ashamed of himself’ and is ‘adamant’ that he will pay all the money back to the club.
She told the court: “He acted stupidly in taking this money and then in attempting to deny it to the police.
"He was somebody who had used the working men’s club and when the position of secretary became vacant he was asked to take it over.
"He didn’t really want to but said he would on a six-month temporary basis but ended up being in the position for 18 months.”
Miss Thomas told the court how Barden ran a family engineering business set up by his father. However it went into liquidation in 2016 after a decline in the oil and gas trade.
"The court heard how Barden had four employees and stopped taking a salary so they could be paid, but he then couldn’t make his mortgage payments.
She said: “He was due to get his pension in April and to pay it back but that is now with the pensions ombudsman.
"He is adamant when he receives the money he will pay the working men’s club back.
“He is unemployed and trying to find work. He’s applied for 243 jobs and had four interviews but hasn’t been successful.”