A TRUSTED member of a town's music festival charity committee stole more than £13,000 to fund his online gambling.

At Carlisle Crown Court today, a judge was told that 28-year-old Matthew Turnbull - who began using gambling websites during a period when he was out of work, depressed and using drink and drugs - managed to clear out the committee's bank account over a two-month period.

Turnbull admitted a single count of theft.

Prosecutor Charles Brown said the defendant, of St Mungo Park, Aspatria, had been a founder member of the festival, which had grown to become a popular local event in the live music calendar.

As the only person with unfettered access to the festival charity's bank account, Turnbull abused that trust as he began dipping into the funds after his gambling habit got out of hand, the court was told.

Though he initially used his own money to fund his gambling, he began using the festival's funds as he "chased his losses."

Mr Brown said that Turnbull's crime came to light after fellow committee members realised that there were no funds left in the festival committee account.

The prosecutor said: "He readily admitted straight away that he was responsible for taking the money. He explained that he took the money while under the influence of drink or drugs and spent it on online gambling."

Mr Brown said that the festival had already been facing difficulties caused by the pandemic and the loss of its funds made those challenges worse.

Claire Larton, defending, said the defendant - who had worked as DJ at weddings and parties - had to stop work when the lockdown was imposed.

"He stopped working and quickly began to drink alcohol at home," said the barrister.

"That quickly slipped into taking drugs and eventually he started gambling." The two months during which he stole the £13,380 had been a blur for him, said Miss Larton.

Judge Nicholas Barker imposed a one-year jail term, but he suspended the term for two years.

In addition, the defendant was told that he must perform 250 hours of unpaid work in the community and complete 15 rehabilitation activity days.

The judge told Turnbull: "I am told you stole that money because you yourself had become depressed and were unable to work. You were stuck at home, looking after your mother and you turned to drink and taking drugs."

Turnbull had then turned to using online gambling websites, which the judge said was a "hopeless and destructive form of behaviour".

The judged noted that Turnbull had immediately admitted his offending and had now sought to address his drink, drug and gambling issues.

Judge Barker went on to commend The Cumberland Building Society, which - despite having no obligation to do so - had reimbursed the festival. But local confidence in the event had been dented, added the judge.