Royal Marine Musician Caught Stealing Instruments Jailed

A Royal Marines musician who stole instruments worth more than £19,000 from his military band has been jailed for six months and thrown out of the forces.

Marine Adrian Higginson, of the Royal Marines Band Service, based in Portsmouth, pleaded guilty to two charges of theft from the band's store rooms in Plymouth and Portsmouth between March 2015 and August 2016.

The 29-year-old admitted stealing eight saxophones, two clarinets, a cornet, a horn and an amplifier which he sold on eBay, mostly to a buyer in Poland.

He also stole a slide trumpet belonging to a fellow bandsman which was also kept in the stores. This instrument, along with a cornet and the amplifier, were the only items recovered.

Higginson was sentenced at court martial at Portsmouth Naval Base to a total of six months detention and dismissal from the service.

Judge Alistair McGrigor told him:

"For a musician, their instrument is operational equipment and their loss would have the potential to impact on their operational effectiveness. This was a long-term and premeditated dishonesty albeit an unsophisticated one. Those who steal from their employers must expect to be dismissed; you will be dismissed. We accept your remorse as genuine."

The court heard that Higginson, who plays euphonium and cello, stole the instruments to pay off personal debts of £15,000.

Major Neil Keery, prosecuting, said the items stolen belonging to the Ministry of Defence totalled £18,886 and the slide trumpet was worth £169.

He said the theft was uncovered when a senior member of the band was informed that suspicious items were being sold on eBay by the defendant, who is married with a 19-month-old daughter.

Maj Keery said a previous investigation into missing instruments had been carried out by service police but had drawn a blank.

He said:

"The items were stolen whilst, as a musician, he had access to the musicians' stores as part of his job."

Rob Bryan, defending, said: "This was hardly sophisticated - he advertised the instruments in his own name on eBay."

He said his client, who suffers from cyclothymia - a mild form of bipolar disorder - had stolen the instruments to pay off his debts.

He added:

"The financial gain wasn't used to indulge in some extravagant lifestyle, it's not a case where he spent money on fast cars or women, it's not that at all. He is a very proud man who was embarrassed and bottled it up. He did something that was not only incredibly foolish but was something that was and is wholly out of character."

Mr Bryan said Higginson was well respected in the Royal Marines Band and added: "He is the musician the band turns to when they want those virtuoso solos on the euphonium."

He added:

"He doesn't beg, he doesn't say anything other than he wholeheartedly regrets what he has done and is completely remorseful."

PICTURE: Library