A paramedic who stole thousands of pounds worth of defibrillators from an ambulance service and sold them on eBay has been jailed for three years.
Scott Sutherland, 48, took lifesaving equipment while working for North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) in 2017 and 2018 and returned to the area to take more in 2020, after he had transferred to South Western Ambulance Service Liverpool Crown Court heard on Friday.
Sentencing him, Judge David Potter said: “It goes without saying that your fall from grace has been spectacular, it has been public and, for you, humiliating.”
He read a commendation Sutherland had received in 2012 for his work with other paramedics to save someone’s life with the use of a defibrillator.
It’s incredibly disappointing that one of our former employees would take advantage of his position to steal these lifesaving pieces of equipment
The judge said: “If ever there needed to be evidence of the value of defibrillator equipment, the efforts you and others put into saving that man’s life with the use of a defibrillator proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
Nardeen Nemat, prosecuting, said Sutherland, who worked for NWAS from 1996 to 2019, went to ambulance stations in Bootle and Kirkby in Merseyside and in Runcorn, Cheshire overnight on February 11 last year, wearing a paramedic uniform and using a Pin code to gain access.
He took three defibrillators and a battery charging pack worth a total of more than £30,000 and as a result some ambulances had to be taken off the road, the court heard.
When the hire car used by Sutherland was traced, police executed a warrant at his home in Devon where they found an NWAS defibrillator, but not one of those taken on February 11, as well as an NWAS jacket.
Emails found by police showed he had been communicating with a man called Norbert Simon, based in the Czech Republic, about the purchase of defibrillators.
Transactions worth more than £60,000 were made between Mr Simon and Sutherland and his wife’s PayPal accounts between 2017 and 2020, the court heard.
Miss Nemat said Sutherland had several eBay accounts selling medical equipment and between 2013 and 2019 he sold more than £108,000 of goods, including two defibrillators confirmed to have been stolen from NWAS.
Sutherland, of Pearse Gardens in Modbury, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and two of burglary at an earlier hearing.
Judge Potter said he had read 11 character references which described his “positive good character”.
He said: “This is a man who saved lives and he is entitled to rely upon that when he comes to be sentenced for offences that have the potential to take life.”
Martine Snowdon, defending, said the father-of-five had chosen a “challenging and selfless career” which put him at the “forefront” of trauma.
She said: “Over many years of doing that, not just to a competent standard but to an exceptional standard, it has taken its toll on him.”
She said Sutherland had been impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and there was evidence he and his family were in “dire straits” financially by the end of 2019.
Roger Jones, head of service for NWAS in Merseyside and Cheshire, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that one of our former employees would take advantage of his position to steal these lifesaving pieces of equipment. It’s sad not just for the public but also for his former colleagues.”
Pc Stuart Beswick, who led the Cheshire Police investigation, said: “As a serving paramedic, he held a position of trust and the public looked to him for help in their time of need. Sutherland totally abused this trust and instead used his position for his own personal gain.”