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Gambling Catholic priest jailed for stealing £96,000

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Sentencing him at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, Sheriff Alistair Watson told the priest: “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 – as an intelligent being you deliberately undertook the actions you undertook.

“The money of the church would’ve been allocated to charity and good causes.”

Sheriff Watson said that he accepted Bell’s “very genuine expressions of shame, remorse and genuine attempt to put matters right”.

But he added: “I can take an exceptionally low starting point for the sentence but I feel I would be failing in my duty if I did not impose custody.”

The sheriff also urged Father Bell, who the court heard regularly attends Gambler’s Anonymous, to continue to seek help for his gambling when he is released from custody.

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