A former cop who admitted he stole funds from the Tauranga Police AOS Social Club account while he was its treasurer has narrowly avoided a criminal conviction.
Matthew Craig Elliott, 43, appeared in the Waihi District Court yesterday for sentencing after he pleaded guilty to a charge of theft by a person in a special relationship in March.
Elliott sought a discharge without conviction after he told the officer in charge that the shortfall in club funds had been poor accounting rather than a deliberate theft.
The former sworn police officer and Tauranga Armed Offenders Squad member was also treasurer of the Tauranga Police AOS Social Club between 2007 and 2015.
Members made regular direct credits into the club's ANZ account, and funds were used to pay for items such as annual dinners and to buy flowers in the event of bereavements.
As treasurer Elliott had access to the club's bank account Eftpos card, the court heard.
Between May 5, 2011 and May 1, 2015, he made a large number of unauthorised transactions to help pay for personal expenses.
That included 32 Eftpos purchases at an Otumoetai bar totalling $982.50.
Elliott also made cash withdrawals and used the card to pay for a large number of other items such as takeaways, coffees, sushi, golf fees, sandblasting and a haircut.
The transactions totalled $4466, but Elliott paid back extra contributions to the club's bank account in the amount of $2612.58, leaving a shortfall of $1853.42.
Police prosecutor Amy Alcock told Judge David Cameron that the police opposed the discharge application as Elliott's offending involved a "gross breach of trust".
Lawyer Bill Nabney submitted that the prosecutor had "over-stated" the gravity of his client's offending which had only arisen in his role as club treasurer.
Elliott had adopted a practice of sometimes using the social club bank card to pay for personal expenses to gain loyalty points but always intended to pay the money back.
Nabney said Elliott accepted what he did was wrong and had since paid the $1853.42.
A criminal conviction would put Elliott's employment as quality assurance manager at a building company at risk with severe consequences for him and his family, he said.
Judge Cameron said after hearing from Nabney and the prosecutor he was satisfied by a "narrow margin" to grant Elliott a discharge without conviction.
"A conviction would not only heighten the risk of Elliott losing his job, but he may also have difficulties in gaining other work which would have a severe impact on his family."