Blackpool town centre pub manager gambled £13k but avoids jail

The Albert and the Lion Wetherspoons pub
The Albert and the Lion Wetherspoons pub
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A panicking pub manager gambled £13,000 of takings and made up ‘ghost bags of money’ as he struggled to balance the books, a court has heard.

Married dad Christopher Walkden, 43, of Stamford Avenue, South Shore, started working at the Albert and Lion Wetherspoon’s pub in Blackpool town centre, and was promoted to being the general manager – but could not cope with the pub’s financial affairs.

Prosecuting, Emma Kehoe said: “In May 2016 it became apparent there were shortfalls in relation to the banking and so the area manager became involved.

“He went to speak to the defendant and challenged him about the shortfall, and he admitted he was responsible and offered his resignation.”

She added an inquiry by Wetherspoons showed money was being recorded as banked on the system but were not appearing in the bank accounts for that public house.

The court heard his activities had gone on for some time but at first he was using the money for the business to pay for staff overtime and to cover shortfalls in the accounts.

She said: “He made a full admission and said when he first took on the pub there were already problems in the accounts and he tried to make them good because he thought it would reflect badly on him.”

Defending, Tom Lord branded the case a situation of ‘business pressures which he did not have the coping mechanism to deal with’ and domestic pressures from saving for IVF treatment to have a second child.

He added: “ He was told his performance figures were the lowest in the country and that was the catalyst for what happened. Of course it descended into gambling and snowballed from there.”

Wakden, who now works as a delivery driver, was ordered to pay the firm £13,000 compensation after admitting theft by an employee.

Judge Simon Newell, sitting at Preston’s Sessions House court, suspended his seven-month jail term for a year saying his case was a combination of ‘inability and over-promotion, not done out of greed’.

He added: “You resorted to gambling, with the inevitable consequences.”

Walkden must complete 120 hours unpaid work.