Mess officer stole £40,000 from naval base funds

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A TRUSTED mess officer for the navy has been jailed for stealing £40,000 from Portsmouth’s base.

Josephine Hare worked at HMS Nelson for 10 years and was highly regarded by those who knew her.

But the 55-year-old grandmother had access to a safe where money from the sale of alcohol in the senior rates’ mess was kept and she secretly helped herself to the cash.

She was caught when Aramark, the private company which runs catering at the base, carried out a surprise audit.

They found money was missing and Hare admitted stealing thousands over an 18-month period.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Hare did not lead a lavish lifestyle with the money, but spent it on her family.

Stephen Clayton, defending, said Hare looked after her disabled husband and provided for her daughter and five-year-old granddaughter.

She had also suffered a brain tumour in 1998.

Mr Clayton said: ‘These stresses and strains and commitments caused the defendant to be short of money.

‘She was trying to help her daughter, she was trying to help her granddaughter and she was trying to help her husband.’

He said she had initially intended to repay the money she took but then forgot how much she had stolen and it spiralled out of control.

Mr Clayton asked the judge to give Hare a suspended sentence so that she could continue to care for her family, including her granddaughter.

‘An immediate prison sentence for her will impact very heavily indeed,’ he said.

Hare, of Billy Lawn Avenue, Leigh Park, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft.

She took the money from 2009 up to her arrest in March last year.

Jailing her for nine months Judge Sarah Munro QC said she had abused the trust of her employers.

‘It was a significant sum of money that you stole and you stole it over a prolonged period of time,’ the judge said.

‘You should know in your heart of hearts that there are very many people in this country for whom times are hard financially.

‘They don’t resort to breaching the trust placed in them as you did and steal again and again to the tune of £40,000 as you did.’ Judge Munro added: ‘I have absolutely no choice but to send you to prison.’

‘The public must know that if people steal in breach of trust they are treated very seriously by the courts.’