A union official who stole $54,974.22 from a meatworkers members' fund has been sentenced to eight months' home detention.
Jamie Clark, 61, was sentenced this afternoon in the Invercargill District Court for defrauding the union shed fund at Blue Sky Meats.
Workers at the factory pay $1 a week to the welfare fund which was meant to be used for things like flowers for bereavements.
Over eight years, from 2007 to 2015, Clark used his position as the branch's secretary-treasurer to present 525 fraudent and unauthorised cheques, which he used to fund a gambling addiction.
On hundreds of cheques the required second signature was either missing or forged, but neither the union nor the bank Westpac picked up the fraud.
He told friends he was making the money from horse-racing.
The court heard of the severe health impacts on the Blue Sky Meats shed fund's then-chairperson Ken McLeod, who blamed himself for allowing the fraud to go on.
The court was told the workers felt badly betrayed, and that Clark's theft had hurt the reputation of the union.
Judge Mark Callaghan told Clark his offending against vulnerable fellow union members was premeditated, systematic and prolonged, but he accepted that he had remorse and was trying to pay all the money back.
Clark paid $23,000 today, which came from his Kiwisaver superannuation account, and his lawyer said he will pay at least $150 a week until it was all repaid.
The judge reduced the sentence from a starting point of 30 months in prison to eight months' home detention, saying that was the least restrictive yet just penalty.
Outside court the shed fund's current chairperson, Eddie Wood, said Clark had been shown to be a fraudster and a conman, and eight months' home detention did not seem much for the amount stolen.
Mr Wood said some union people had suspicions and confronted Clark, but he conned them too.