A former council leader who stole more than £30,000 from Conservative Party coffers to fund his gambling addiction has been ordered to pay back compensation of just £214 – and has been released from jail less than four months into his 14 month sentence.
Giles McNeill, 40, was jailed for 14 months in November after cashing £20,000 of forged cheques and pocketing £9,365 in cash, including payments from members to attend a Boris Johnson speech.
A proceeds of crime hearing at Lincoln Crown Court was today (Monday) told McNeill made a benefit of £32,468.16 from his criminal activity.
However the court heard McNeill has available assests of just £214.53.
Judge John Pini QC made a confiscation order for the sum of £214.53 and ordered it to be paid in the form of compensation to the treasurer of Gainsborough Constituency Conservative Association.
McNeill, who has been released from custody, was given three months to pay the confiscation order of £214.53 and will face a further seven days imprisonment if it is not paid.
Lincoln Crown Court previously heard how McNeill stole the money over a six-year period between 2014 and 2020.
When passing sentence Judge Pini described his conduct as “a gross breach of trust”.
McNeill, who was leader of West Lindsey District Council from May 2019 to September 2020, pleaded guilty to charges of theft by an employee, fraud by abuse of position and forgery.
Andrew Scott, prosecuting, said: “Over a period of six years between 2014 and 2020 he defrauded local Conservative associations and individual members out of almost £30,000.”
The court heard McNeil forged 93 cheques in total, including 35 from the Gainsborough Constituency Conservative Association (GCCA), and 25 from the West Lindsey District Council Constituency Conservative Association.
His actions only came to light when Tracey Coulson took over as treasurer at the GCCA in 2019.
In a victim impact statement Miss Coulson said McNeill’s actions had caused huge reputational damage to the party.
The court was told McNeill began gambling in 2013, with the situation becoming “acute” by 2016.
Hal Ewing, mitigating, said: “Rather than admit he was becoming overwhelmed his gambling addiction began to spiral out of control.
“In the end he was unable to deal with the demands placed on him.”
Mr Ewing said references from fellow councillors, and MP Sir Edward Leigh, for whom he previously worked, made it clear “he was a hardworking and talented politician”.
“He went into politics for the best of motives,” he added.
Passing sentence Judge Pini QC told McNeill his “fall from grace had been steep”.
“If the electorate cannot trust those elected then politics breaks down. Your conduct was a gross breach of trust over a number of years,” he added.
McNeill, of The Chestnuts, Nettleham, near Lincoln, remained a sitting councillor for the Nettleham ward until his resignation.