A CEFNEITHIN man working for a fire service stole more than £22,000 from a firefighter support charity.

Justyn Morris wrote himself dozens of cheques from the charity’s funds over the course of almost four years. He also raided the kitty of a fishing club run by firefighters, stealing a further £1,000 in cash. The money went to fund his legal bills following an “acrimonious” separation from his wife.

Swansea Crown Court heard Morris had worked for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue for 18 years. Paul Hobson, prosecuting, said the defendant was employed as an exchequer services manager by the brigade and as part of his duties he oversaw payments to winners of a prize draw fund run by the service.

Mr Hobson said the proceeds from the fund went to support injured firefighters and their families with regular draws being held and prizes of between £100 and £2,000 given to winners.

Beginning in December 2013 Morris, of Heol Treventy, Cefneithin, Cross Hands, began making out cheques to himself and went on to cash 36 such cheques totalling £22,150 up to the point he went on sick leave in September 2017.

The court heard that while he was off sick an audit revealed discrepancies in the charity's accounts and an internal investigation was launched. It then emerged Morris had also stolen £1,070 in cash which firefighters from the service's fishing club had been putting aside to pay for a fishing trip.

Mr Hobson said the defendant was interviewed in June 2018 and made full admissions and the police were contacted.

It was not until January 2019 that the defendant was interviewed by the police. The prosecutor said the force had decided to wait before questioning Morris because he had been dealing with the death of a close family member.

The court heard the bank that handled the fund for the firefighter’s charity, Barclays, has since reimbursed it for the money the defendant took.

Morris, aged 47, had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of theft by an employee when he appeared for sentencing on Thursday.

For Morris, Craig Jones, said his client's mental health had suffered a "traumatic and quite tragic" decline beginning in 2011 with the loss of his father and continuing with an "extremely acrimonious" separation from his wife and then the death of a close family member at a very young age.

He said his client had become involved in lengthy legal proceedings following the end of the marriage and, not being eligible for legal aid, he had run up legal bills "running into the thousands" on solicitors.

The judge told him he had not only lost his good name and his career but he had brought Mid and West Wales Fire Service into disrepute.

Giving the defendant a one-third discount for his guilty pleas he sentenced him to 10 months prison suspended for two years. He also ordered him to pay back in full the money he stole from the fishing club and to pay Barclays £10,000 compensation, both to be paid within eight weeks.