A trusted former Aspatria music festival committee member who stole more than £13,000 from event coffers has been spared immediate prison.
Matthew Turnbull, 28, emptied the locally-funded charity’s bank account while under the influence of drink and drugs to fund his online gambling habit, Carlisle Crown Court heard today.
Other committee members found the account had been cleaned out late last summer, Turnbull having had access to it as a trustee.
A man of previous good character, Turnbull, of St Mungo’s Park, Aspatria, immediately confessed to what he had done, and admitted theft of £13,380 between June and September last year.
Prosecutor Charles Brown said: “The charity has been going through difficulties because, obviously, music events have been impossible to put on during the pandemic, and the theft of this money from them has caused further difficulties, exacerbated their difficulties, and led to something of a loss of confidence amongst their local business sponsors.”
The Cumberland had since generously repaid the money stolen by Turnbull, a festival founder who was described as being “extremely ashamed and remorseful” for his criminal conduct.
Judge Nicholas Barker heard Turnbull had taken steps to address alcohol, drug and gambling issues, and cared for his mother.
Judge Barker spoke of a “serious breach of trust” and said of his substance misuse and gambling: “All of this should have been apparent to you that this was a hopeless and destructive form of behaviour, but you carried on.” Of the theft, he added: “It must have been all too apparent to you what it was you were doing.”
After hearing mitigation, the judge suspended a 12-month jail term for two years.
Turnbull must complete 250 hours’ unpaid work and a rehabilitation requirement.
Formerly known as Sealy Spyatstock, the live music festival is an annual three-day, 1,500-capacity event held in the grounds of Aspatria Rugby Club.
A statement released by festival organisers on their Facebook page after Turnbull entered his guilty plea in front of magistrates last month read: “We as a committee have felt shock, betrayal and huge disappointment.
“We do not condone this behaviour and would like to publicly announce that Matthew has not been a part of the committee since we discovered the money had been stolen.
“We hope you can understand this has been a difficult time for us as committee members, friends and even co-founders but we would like to reassure everyone that we have made our best efforts to co-operate and help the police with enquiries to seek justice and regain the funds for your festival — the people’s festival.
“We will not be making any further statements at this point apart from to thank you all for you continued support and we hope to bring the festival back bigger, better and stronger.”