Priest who stole £96k to fund gambling addiction jailed for ten months


A Catholic priest who stole £96,000 from his parish to fund his online gambling addiction has been jailed for ten months.

Father Graeme Bell, 41, admitted at Kilmarnock sheriff court that he embezzled almost £100,000 from his parish during a two month period of addictive online gambling.

Bell had reportedly been "paralysed" by his addiction to online roulette, according to the Daily Record.

Bell's lawyer, Gerard Brown, described the priest - who had been priest at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church Ayrshire - as "a good man who had given his life to God, to the church and to his parishioners" and asked the sheriff not to jail him.

He told the sheriff the priest's "anxiety and depression reached a stage where he was not behaving as a law-abiding individual."

Almost all of the £96,000 has been returned to the church. Bell returned £25,000 personally, £30,000 was returned through insurance, and another £42,500 was donated by friends and family.

Sheriff Alistair Watson sentenced the priest to 10 months, saying "this is a very significant breach of trust and a substantial amount of funds.

"All the difficulties you have did not remove your free will - you deliberately undertook the actions."