Head professional Steven Hunter at Royal Winchester Golf Club 'motivated by greed' jailed for defrauding historic venue of over £100,000

THE head professional at a historic golf club has been jailed for five years for defrauding the club of more than £100,000.

Thursday, 28th July 2022, 12:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th July 2022, 12:49 pm

Steven Hunter, from Abbots Worthy, was sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court today.

He was convicted at trial of two counts of fraud against Royal Winchester Golf Club, false accounting and cheating Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

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Pictured: Steven Hunter at Salisbury Law Courts. Picture: David Clarke/Solent News & Photo Agency.

Sentencing the 54-year-old, Judge Andrew Barnett told him: ‘Your dishonest conduct was over a period of some five years when you were the head professional at Royal Winchester Golf Club.

‘You had occupied that post for some considerable period having been appointed in the 1990s and you had attracted a considerable amount of support and admiration from members and along with that a high degree of trust.

‘Whether motivated by greed or disorganisation that became dishonest, you exploited the club and the trust they had put in you to some considerable degree.’

He added: ‘Your criminality was extensive, deliberate and deeply wounding to those who put their trust in you.’

The court heard that he stole £109,375 in green fee payments from the club, which was established in 1888, during a five-year period from June 2013.

A CPS spokeswoman said: ‘Hunter was trusted by the club to take green fee payments from visitors to the club at his onsite professional golf shop, but he vastly under-reported the takings and kept the difference for himself.

‘It was only when the club manager reviewed the figures for income from visitors’ fees that the scale of Hunter’s fraudulent behaviour was discovered.

‘He was consistently claiming that the income was only a third of what it should have been, using the rest of the money to fund his lifestyle.’

Hunter also ‘cruelly’ stole £11,000 that had been donated at two charity golf days held in aid of Canine Partners, organised in memory of Les Day, a long-standing member of the golf club, with the charity only receiving £47.

The false accounting charge related to diverting £343,449 of takings from his professional golf shop to his personal bank account instead of his business account to avoid paying tax.

He further cheated the public revenue by failing to declare retainer payments and VAT payments of more than £105,000 to HMRC.

Robert Shaw, defending, described Hunter as a ‘family man’, and said: ‘He is of previous good character. What he has done has undermined his good name and his work at the club where for many years he was a loyal member, he had been there for 30 years.’

He added: “He has voluntarily repaid 50% of the sum and in due course it’s expected the club will be fully recompensed under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

‘This is not a man without the means to repay.’

Elizabeth Medland, CPS Wessex senior crown prosecutor, said: ‘This case involved a thorough and complex investigation, with the review of a vast number of financial records and evidence from financial experts to trace the money Hunter had fraudulently taken.

‘His deception has not only caused the golf club financial loss, but has also prevented a charity from receiving the benefit of very generous donations made in memory of a man who meant a lot to the club and its patrons.’