A SOUTHAMPTON man who stole more than £32,000 from the NHS to fund a “lavish lifestyle” has been jailed.

Southampton Crown Court heard 25-year-old Jack Barnes siphoned the money into his own bank account over a seven-month period while working for a subcontractor.

Barnes, of Ellwood Avenue, Thornhill, had been working in one of the NHS’s payroll department in December 2017 when he began changing the bank details of former employees to his own.

The court heard Barnes continued to do so until July amassing £32,675.69 while moving the money around accounts to mask his crime.

Barnes pleaded guilty to the single charge of theft while appearing at Southampton Magistrates Court last month.

Defending, Susan Ridge said she agreed that the “money was to fund a lavish lifestyle” for Barnes, who spoke only to confirm his name.

But, Ms Ridge added: “Barnes is a young man who was dishonest. I would say foolish but there was a degree of planning in this case. Barnes is a man of good character who was in work, a young man who is clearly trying to better himself.

“There is, of course, £32,000 that has got to be paid back. He tells me he has £1,000 that can be paid back immediately.”

Ms Ridge said if Judge Nicholas Atkinson QC was willing to suspended a prison sentence for Barnes he would be able to repay a further £300-400 a month. However, handing Barnes an 18-month prison sentence Judge Atkinson said: “This offence, effectively a series of offences, was to deprive the NHS of money.

“It is not a victimless crime. The NHS face real pressures, not least financial ones.”

Barnes was also ordered to pay a £140 victim surcharge.

Judge Atkinson declined to make any orders relating to the stolen money, but said the NHS and prosecutors could take action to recover the funds.