Jail for Lympstone Royal Marine who sold stolen kit on eBay

PUBLISHED: 17:31 16 April 2018

Exeter Crown Court. Ref exeter crown court

Exeter Crown Court. Ref exeter crown court

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A Royal Marine NCO has been jailed for looting thousands of pounds worth of kit from Lympstone, selling it on eBay.

Exeter Crown Court heard how former Warrant Officer Michael Bath used his trusted position at the training base at Lympstone’s Commando Training Centre to steal £67,000 kit including hundreds of pairs of specially made military issue boots.

He also sold hundreds of cap badges and even six of the coveted Green Berets during a four year campaign of dishonesty.

Warrant Officer Bath, aged 48, of Horton Path, Blyth, admitted theft and possession of criminal property between 2012 and 2016. He was jailed for 15 months by Judge Michael Cullum at Exeter Crown Court.

The Judge told Bath: “You stole hundreds and hundreds of military boots and some other items, particularly green berets and cap badges.

“I suspect that you know, more than I and more than many in this room, how envied those are by those who worked with dedication and training to obtain them.

“You stole them and resold them and that disrespect has a direct effect on your colleagues past and present and to the entire Royal Marine community.

“This was a business, feeding your addictions. It was a organised, determined and long lasting. Over four years you were living a double life. You were dishonest at work and a benefit to the community at home, dislocated by geography and morality.

“You were in a position of trust in a service where everyone has to be trusted. Trust and responsibility are the cornerstones of how the armed services work. It was your distinguished service and seniority that enabled you to have that trust.”

The court heard how Bath had seen action in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan during a 29 year career but the stress of his service led him to develop a drink problem and a gambling habit.

He blamed his behaviour on the mental strain of working in the welfare department, where one of his tasks was to break the news to the families of those who were killed or serious wounded in action.

He started his scam to pay for his lifestyle but was caught when an authorised Ministry of Defence surplus dealer found their prices were being undercut by Bath’s eBay site.

Bath’s job at Lympstone involved supplying recruits with bedding but he used his access to the stores to steal huge numbers of boots and other kit.

He hid his connection to the eBay site by registering it in the name of an old school friend in the North East and laundering the proceeds through his Paypal account.

Mr Paul Grumbar, prosecuting, said Bath’s dishonesty came to light after an authorised surplus dealer tipped off the Ministry of Defence police that someone was selling valuable Altberg Defender boots on eBay.

Bath claimed he had bought the boots at a market stall and was ‘shocked and disgusted’ to learn they were stolen, but when police raided his room at Lympstone they found boots, cap badges and other kit.

The Altberg boots are not sold to the public and should not have been on eBay at all. Checks showed 535 pairs were missing from the Lympstone stores.

The total value of the kit stolen was £66.806, of which £45,000 was made up of boot sales. They were sold for £40 to £60 a pair. He sold 776 cap badges and 16 green berets.

A probation report said Bath had shown remorse, describing himself as ‘completely selfish’. He said he started stealing at a time when he was drinking spirits and 12 cans of beer a day and losing money on online gambling.

He said he lost a total of £170,000 on gambling, including spending his £53,000 Marine discharge money within three months. He is now working with the charity Combat Stress.

During his time as a Warrant Officer, Bath had worked in a job where he had to visit the homes of those killed in action and break the news to the families.

Mr Gavin Doig, defending, said Bath had left the Marines as a result of the case but still commanded impeccable references from those who had served with him and commanded him.

He said Bath was not the quartermaster and did not have direct responsibility for the stores and that he now regrets his actions.

Mr Doig said: “He is deeply ashamed. He has let himself down, let the corps down, let his down and let down all his friends who trusted him. He is a man who has given so much to his community and his country.”

Mr Doig said Bath had served his local community in Blyth as a scout leader, a rugby coach and a foster parent.

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