A manager who stole more than £9,000 from an organisation providing housing for vulnerable people has walked free after a judge heard a spinal condition meant he would soon be confined to a wheelchair.
Lee Spring was working for the Circle Housing Group, part of Russett Homes based in Tonbridge and Malling, when he fiddled £3,845 in travel expenses and took £5,224 of electrical items.
The 36-year-old, of Hampton Gardens, Herne Bay, admitted two offences of fraud by abuse of position.
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
Maidstone Crown Court was told two operations had been carried out on Spring's back and now had a tear in his spinal cord and was in danger of suffering brain damage.
Mary Jacobson, defending, said Spring was under a strict medical regime.
"He was told he would be in a wheelchair within a year," she said. "He is losing the use of his legs. He needs physical care three times a week.
"He was told he would be in a wheelchair within a year. He is losing the use of his legs. He needs physical care three times a week..." - Mary Jacobson, defending
"Modifications have been made to his home to allow wheelchair access. His condition is serious. It will completely deteriorate. He can no longer walk outside."
Judge Charles Byers interrupted to assure Spring he would not be sent straight to jail and sentenced him to five months' - suspended for two years - with a curfew from 7pm to 7am for three months.
But the judge blocked a plan for Spring to go on a trip to Ireland to visit his grandmother's grave.
"Who is paying for it?" he asked. "It seems to me some of the money being spent on a holiday might be spent in compensating the victim. It may be a punishment not to go on that trip."
Miss Jacobson said Spring's elderly and ailing father was paying for the five-day trip in September.
"It is not a case of going to some hot climate," she said. "He will be in a wheelchair. It is not out of his pocket. He now says he will defer it or simply not go."
Judge Charles Byers has retired because of ill health
The judge was also concerned that Spring had reached an agreement with his former employers to pay back the money at the rate of £20 a month.
"It will take 80 years," he said. "With the best will in the world he is not going to complete it. Even doubled, it is 40 years."
Judge Byers instead ordered a confiscation hearing for May.
He told Spring that anybody who stole from their employer over such a period would normally be sent to prison "for a meaningful sentence".
But he did not prevaricate and his health deteriorated greatly after his dishonesty was discovered.
"Therefore, it would be inhuman for me to impose an immediate custodial sentence," said the judge. "You lost your job, which was a good job, and lost your reputation at the age of 36.
"In your life, you have a substantial amount to bear."
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