A SHOP manager who stole thousands of pounds from his employer to fund his gambling habit has avoided jail.

Michael Knott pilfered money while in his position at the SPAR, in Stoney Lane, Weeke, Winchester – a franchise owned by Appleby Westwood – between January and February 2020.

The 34-year-old took the money while cashing up, which he would either put into his bank account or use to gamble, Winchester Crown Court was told on Friday.

Prosecuting, Richard Reynolds said that Knott was “evasive” about training a new member of staff who would have taken over the process of cashing up.

Mr Reynolds said that when Knott was confronted he admitted his actions and when interviewed by police he “gave an account relating to gambling difficulties”.

The court heard that the thief had been charged with stealing £16,563.94, but he said he had only stolen around £8,000 which was not challenged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Representing himself, Knott, who was sacked from his job following the revelation, now works as a window cleaner.

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He said: “I am 14 months without gambling now, this is a massive step for me that I never thought I would be in. I am working and whatever the outcome I will try my best to pay back [the SPAR].”

Speaking about how he would cope if he was sent to prison, he said: “I would really struggle, mainly for my kids’ sake.”

Knott said that he has moved from his previous home to live with his partner in Bournemouth, and has been getting help from the Central and North West London NHS Trust for a gambling disorder.

In sentencing, Mr Recorder Charles Langley said that regarding Knott not wanting to train the new employee, “no doubt you didn’t want them to have that responsibility so that you could continue stealing or they couldn’t find out that you were stealing”.

The judge said that there was “some degree of trust breached” by stealing from the employer.

Knott was handed a 16-week prison suspended for 12 months, but he must complete 150 hours unpaid work and pay £3,600 in compensation.

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Kimberley Barber