by Michael MacLeod
A HOSPITAL worker who faked sick lines and sneaked into his work to steal laptops after being bullied by co-workers has avoided jail.
Stephen Dowie, 31, was sacked from his NHS office job at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary when police intercepted his sneaky scheme.
After taking time off for a virus, he forged and altered medical certificates to claim an extra £2,786 of sick pay.
And when he was supposed to be off sick, he used a security swipe card to steal laptops and cash from hospital offices.
A sheriff previously told him that a prison sentence was “inescapable,” but Dowie was ordered to 140-hours of community service at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
Sheriff Warner described the thefts and fake sick notes as a “flagrant breach of trust”.
Since being sacked, the father of two is in such difficulties that he has applied for “in excess of 30 jobs,” according to his lawyer, and his wife had to get a loan to pay compensation to the hospital.
The court heard how Dowie had taken a week off after suffering from a virus, but began photocopying and altering medical certificates to get more time off.
Over the course of five months between June and November last year, the Dalkeith man conned almost £3,000 in sick pay and admitted using a security card to steal computers and cash from his work.
Fiscal depute Bruce McCrossan said police noticed several high value thefts from the hospital between October 2006 and April 2007.
It was during these investigations when Dowie first went-off sick.
Investigators realised Dowie must have taken two laptops because they were taken from a corridor for which the high-tech cards, issued to only a small number of staff, were needed to access.
During the investigation, Dowie was suspended and eventually sacked from his job at the hospital in Little France.
Dowie pleaded guilty from the outset to eight charges of falsifying the sick notes and one charge of theft.
His defence agent, Euan Roy, said Dowie forged the sick lines because he was suffering from stress after being bullied at work and seeing his father fall mentally ill.
He said Dowie stole the laptops because he had a drug addiction.
Mr Roy added: “Had he told his doctor about the difficulties he had I’m sure he would have been given the necessary documents.”
He said the first offender was shocked by his actions, was now drug-free, looking for work and was a low risk of re-offending.
At Dowie’s first pleading diet in court, Sheriff Warner described the incident as a “flagrant breach of trust” and added: “It seems prison is inescapable.”
But Mr Roy said Dowie’s wife, a £20k-a-year bio-medical scientist, would arrange a personal loan to cover the health board’s loss and his sentence was deferred to allow it to be arranged.
His lawyer said Dowie had failed to get a new job since getting the boot from the NHS.
He said: “Over the past four weeks he has applied for in excess of 30 jobs at hotels, supermarkets and carparks to accommodate his child care costs.
“He is yet to hear back from any of them but hopes to hear back from the carpark attendant job within the next two weeks.
“He still lives with his partner and two young children.”
After hearing that Dowie and arranged compensation for the hospital, albeit through his wife, Sheriff Graeme Warner backed down from his initial jail threat.
He said: “My inclination now is towards community service due to your early plea.”