Army man spared jail after admitting pocketing cash while based at Wattisham

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: SIMON PARKER - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk army catering officer who pocketed money given to him to purchase food for functions after his drinking spiralled out of control has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Christopher Lyons, a regimental catering warrant officer, committed the fraud while he was based at Wattisham and in Woolwich, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Catherine Bradshaw, prosecuting, said Lyons had submitted 79 invoices for £34,000 but it was not possible to say how much was spent on food and how much was pocketed by him.

She accepted the system which allowed Lyons to commit the fraud was “loose”.

Lyons, 39, of Stirling, admitted fraud by abuse by position and was given a 24 week prison sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £1,200 costs.

Sentencing him, Judge John Devaux said Lyons had committed the fraud, which involved the creation of 79 false invoices, over a period of more than two years.

He said that Lyons had repaid £3,000 of the money he had taken.

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“The prosecution are unable to quantify your actual gain and the army’s actual loss,” said the judge.

“It was easy for you to commit this fraud because you were trusted and your weren’t subject to any regular form of checks.

He said the fraud started while Lyons was at Wattisham and had continued after he was moved to Woolwich.

Judge Devaux said that because of Lyons’ otherwise good character he was prepared to pass a suspended prison sentence.

Edward Renvoize for Lyons said his client joined the army in 1995 and had served in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and had been awarded 12 medals.

He said that Lyons’ drinking had spiralled out of control due to a “perfect storm” arising out of a series of events in his life including the death of his partner from cancer in 2016.

Mr Renvoize also said Lyons had a son who lived with his former partner’s parents but he hadn’t seen him because of his alcoholism.

He said Lyons had been referred to a rehabilitation centre and he would go there at the conclusion of the court proceedings.

Mr Renvoize added that Lyons would be discharged from the army and had effectively “lost everything”.