IT worker, 42, jailed for two years after stealing 27 laptops from hospital during Covid pandemic

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An IT worker has been jailed for more than two years after admitting to stealing 27 laptops worth over £12,000 from a hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic to pay off his gambling debts

Neil Murthick, 42, who was employed as an agency worker, would steal two or three laptops at a time from Darlington Memorial Hospital and sell them to fund his gambling addiction, Teesside Crown Court heard.

He took the computers, which were meant to help NHS staff work from home, between December 31 until May 27.

While his defence solicitor tried to get the thieving employee a suspended sentence, a judge warned the public would be ‘outraged,’ if Murthick received anything less than time in prison.  

IT worker Neil Murthick, from Darlington, stole 27 laptops meant for NHS staff between December and May this year, to fund his gambling adddiction

IT worker Neil Murthick, from Darlington, stole 27 laptops meant for NHS staff between December and May this year, to fund his gambling adddiction

Teesside Crown Court heard how his role was to get the computers set up and ready to go for NHS workers.

However Murthick, who was employed as an agency worker, was going into the store room at the hospital in Darlington and taking two or three computers at a time.

The court in Middlesbrough heard how he was then selling the laptops so he could pay off a gambling debt.

Murthick, of Inglewood Close, Darlington, admitted a charge of theft by employee. 

Kelleigh Lodge, defending, told the court that Murthick has struggled to gain work since pleading guilty to the crime.

She told Judge Jonathan Carroll that Murthick would be suitable for a curfew and urged him to consider suspending his prison sentence.

He told her: ‘It doesn’t get close to the threshold for suspending this sentence.’

Judge Carroll told the court: ‘The National Health Service is a golden treasure in which we are immensely proud in this country.

‘2020 is a year that will live on in all of our minds because of the impact of the Covid pandemic.

‘The NHS has gone above and beyond the call of duty working relentlessly as they try to get a grip of this pandemic.

‘Risking their own health and wellbeing are doctors and nurses going into the hospital on a daily basis in circumstances where they know the potential risks associated with their work are immensely elevated.’

Judge Carroll told Murthick that the hospital had acquired the computers to help strengthen their resilience by allowing staff to be able to work from home or away from the hospital.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told Murthick his thefts damaged Darlington Memorial Hospital's 'resilience,' during the pandemic. A spokesperson for the hospital welcomed the 26-month prison term handed down to Murthick

Judge Jonathan Carroll told Murthick his thefts damaged Darlington Memorial Hospital’s ‘resilience,’ during the pandemic. A spokesperson for the hospital welcomed the 26-month prison term handed down to Murthick

He said that people are staying at home, in many cases sadly losing their jobs and pulling together to make personal sacrifices.

Judge Carroll added that the debt was his ‘own responsibility’ and he had no hesitation in concluding that his prison sentence would have to be immediate.

He said: ‘In this case it’s the hospital and the hospital’s resilience that was directly damaged by your theft.

‘The public would be horrified to think that anything other would be appropriate in the facts of this case.’

Murthick was sentenced to 26 months behind bars. 

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, added: ‘We welcome this decision and judgement.

‘This theft was particularly disappointing given that it was at a time when our staff were working incredibly hard caring for large numbers of patients with Covid-19.’

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