By Sam Whyte
A FUNERAL worker who admitted “stealing from the dead” has been let off with a warning letter from prosecutors.
Douglas Findlay dipped in to money donated by mourners at the end of funeral services, pocketing more than £130.
But the Crown Office decided to deal with the matter by “direct measure” – meaning Findlay, 56, was sent a formal letter telling him not to offend again.
Findlay’s former boss said today the disgraced undertaker should have been dragged through the courts.
Findlay had worked for Selwood Funeral Directors, in Carnoustie, Angus, since 2006 but staff started to suspect he was stealing from end-of-service collections.
Police mounted a sting operation earlier this year and caught Findlay red-handed.
Selwood director Robin Marshall said: “In the week the police were involved he took £132 in one week – in one day we had two services and he took £40 from one and around £30 from another.”
Findlay was immediately sacked and charged with theft.
But a spokesman for the Crown Office confirmed Findlay had been let off with a smack on the wrist.
He said: “After full and careful consideration of all facts and circumstances the case was dealt with by way of a direct measure and is now closed.”
Direct measures were introduced to avoid expensive court proceedings in some “minor” cases, particularly those involving first offenders.
The Crown Office hands out up to 8,400 direct measures annually.
Police can also issue direct measures, and dealt with 18,400 cases in this way between April and June 2010.
That represented an 11% increase on the same period the previous year.
Prosecutors are allowed to issue a fine, order compensation payments, make the offender carry out work or simply issue a warning letter.
But the use of the measures is controversial and critics of the system claim it amounts to “soft touch” justice that lets down victims.
Mr Marshall said: “As a firm we felt we absolutely devastated when we discovered money had been taken.
“As funeral directors we are put in a position of trust at a very difficult time.
“We are very disappointed that all Mr Findlay got was a warning letter to say ‘don’t do it again’ – and apparently it only stays with him for two years.
“For us the punishment didn’t fit the crime – this is a man who stole from the dead.
“He should have been prosecuted in the courts.”
Mr Findlay was involved in house visits to bereaved families as well as arranging services.
Mr Marshall added: “It didn’t make sense to us – he was in no financial trouble that would mean he takes to stealing – he was a good guy and good at his job.
“He said when he was caught that the temptation was just too much.”
Mr Marshall said there was no suggestion Findlay stole from the homes of bereaved and that he had paid back the stolen money.
Findlay also worked for two decades as a volunteer in the Coastguard.
In February 2010, Findlay given a medal for 20 years’ service, presented by Bill Spiers, the Area Safety Manager for HM Coastguard.
A spokeswoman for HM Coastguard said: “We can confirm that Mr Findlay was a volunteer at Carnoustie but he is no longer with us.
“He left around February or March of this year of his own free will.”