Guilty union rep's minimal payback

A union treasurer who stole £58k from the coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle of ski trips, family holidays and private school fees has been ordered to pay back just 13 per cent of what he stole.

Thursday, 9th June 2016, 10:10 am
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 1:27 pm
Heath List has been ordered to pay back more than £7,000

Heath List, 49, used his position with the Fylde Coast Branch of Unite to write 283 cheques to himself, his family and utility firms - despite having a household income of almost £100,000 a year.

Much of the money taken from the pot was earmarked for charity contributions - including £2,000 destined for the Japanese Tsunami Appeal, which funded a family ski holiday for List.

He also paid for a private education and the upkeep of a pony for his daughter – along with vets bills and riding lessons – from the Union coffers.

But a proceeds of crime hearing at Preston Crown Court heard List, of Lingwell Gate Lane, Wakefield, had just £7,628.23 of assets which could be seized to pay back his debt.

The court ordered he makes the payment – which amounts to just 13 per cent of what he stole – within three months.

If he does not pay, he must serve an additional four months on top of his sentence.

List was jailed for 20 months in March after admitting the thefts from Britain’s biggest union, amounting to £58,079.86p.

The court heard he started “borrowing” money from the union funds after his wife Sarah, a headteacher, was seriously injured in a car accident in 2003.

Unable to work, Mrs List placed increasing demands on her husband to spend time with their daughter and provide a lifestyle of three holidays a year and an expensive education, the court was told.

By the time their marriage broke down, the couple had amassed significant debt and List was taking out regular payday loans, the court heard.

Recorder Nicholas Clarke QC, sentencing, said: “You chose to live a lavish lifestyle, well beyond your means.

“The offences were borne out of greed and they were also particularly mean.”

List took over the role of treasurer from a colleague Michael Stott in 2000, when the men worked for BAE systems in Warton.

But when Mr Stott took the role back in 2011 he noticed a number of financial irregularities and cheques which the union would not have paid.

In the six years between 2005 and 2011, List syphoned off 60 to 75 per cent of the branch’s money to fund his family lifestyle.

His wife, although no longer able to work, retained her full salary and List was bringing in a £30,000 per year salary of his own.

A number of local charities, which would usually receive a £200 donation from Unite, were given just £10 while List doctored the receipts to make it appear they had received their full contribution.

He later claimed to have made up the money by putting cash into charity tins on shop counters – although this could never be verified.

Recorder Clarke said: “The meanness of the offences is indicated by the fact that it was the charities which your members wished to contribute which suffered the most significant losses.

“There were 5,300 members of the union branch at the time – each of them has lost the money that they contributed.”

List pleaded guilty to 15 counts of theft and fraud by false representation.

He appeared by videolink from HMP Preston for a brief Proceeds of Crime Hearing, in which he spoke only to confirm his name and that he understood the order.