Police store manager jailed 4 years for stealing ‘staggering sum’ over £100,000

A property manager stole a “staggering sum” totalling more than £100,000 from police stores, including cash taken for safekeeping from people who had died, a judge has said.

Andrew Roberts, 55, took more than 200 items of evidence and property from Huddersfield police station, including £5,645 received by officers for safekeeping after they were called to the home of a seriously ill elderly woman who later died.

He also stole £742 similarly taken to be looked after when a man died suddenly on a footpath in the West Yorkshire town, a judge was told.

Roberts was jailed for four years when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday.

The court heard that he was only caught after he gave his daughter six 50-euro notes, taken from the store he managed, which he did not know were counterfeit.

Prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford QC told a judge that, when the defendant’s daughter tried to exchange these, it triggered an investigation which led to her father’s arrest in June 2017.

Mr Sandiford said Roberts took at least £120,000 but, as he was “robbing Peter to pay Paul” by replacing some amounts to cover his tracks, a “reasonable estimate” of his net gain was in excess of £100,000.

The prosecutor said the defendant hid evidence bags and other containers he had plundered around his store at the police station in case amounts had to be replaced for use in court proceedings.

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He said it was difficult to be accurate about exactly how much Robert took because some of the cash deposited by officers in the stores after operations has yet to be counted.

Mr Sandiford said Roberts’ offending “appears to be caused by his dishonesty, his greed and his willingness to put his own desire for cash above the trust that was placed in him by West Yorkshire Police”.

The prosecutor added: “The defendant’s offending was driven by his greed, the hedonistic lifestyle he and his wife chose to lead.”

Mr Sandiford said there was evidence that Roberts was “living beyond his means”, with deposits of £40,000 in a joint bank account and £8,000 paid out on hotel stays between 2011 and 2017.

The court heard that Roberts worked in the police store for 16 years, becoming manager in 2011, and had responsibility for looking after drugs and firearms as well as cash.

His gross salary was £19,755 in 2012 and £22,374 by 2016.

Nick Johnson QC, defending, denied that his client’s offending was motivated entirely by greed, saying there was “no evidence of a lavish lifestyle – cars, designer clothes, etc”.

He said Roberts was suffering from dependent personality disorder at the time, which limited his ability to exercise self-control.

Sentencing Roberts, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC, said: “It’s a staggering sum.

“The primary motive was greed, to maintain the lifestyle that, notwithstanding your legitimate income, went beyond your means.”

He said: “I’m entirely satisfied that, had it not been for that error (the counterfeit notes), your offending would have continued and more would have been stolen.”

The judge also said Roberts’ actions had had a “significant impact” on the integrity of the criminal justice system, with a least two cases having to be halted due to the defendant contaminating evidence.

Roberts, of Lepton, Huddersfield, pleaded guilty to seven charges of fraud by abuse of position at a previous hearing.

Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Bottomley, head of West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Directorate, said: “Roberts is an embarrassment to the force and there is no excuse for what he did. He now faces time in prison to consider the consequences of his actions.

“Any safeguards in place are reliant on the honesty and integrity of those running them.

“The vast majority of people who work for West Yorkshire Police are honest and work with an extremely high degree of integrity. He is very much in the minority.”