Former Brighton University finance boss jailed after stealing £2.4m

David Hall arriving at Hove Crown Court this morning (16 March) Credit: ITV News Meridian

A former university finance chief has been jailed after admitting stealing £2.4 million over 30 years in a ‘breathtaking’ and ‘sophisticated’ accounting fraud.

David Hall, who is 64 and from Ringmer, East Sussex, used his senior position at the University of Brighton to steal cash collected from students and the institution’s catering outlets.

Asked if he was ashamed of his crimes, as he arrived at Hove Crown Court this morning (16 March), Hall replied: “Er, yes.” 

When asked what he had spent the stolen millions on, he told ITV Meridian: “Lots of things.”

  • David Hall spoke to ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw as he entered court

Sentencing him to six years imprisonment, His Honour Judge Roger Chapple told Hall that the "scale and breadth" of the dishonesty was "frankly breathtaking", and had an "enormous impact" on staff and students.

The 64-year-old was the University of Brighton’s Head of Income and Payments at the time the accounting fraud was discovered, in November 2021, during an internal audit.

The court heard that for a period of 30 years Hall had been stealing cash collected by the university and covering his tracks by fraudulently amending ledgers and accounts to indicate that cheques and other invoices had been paid in, in order to balance the books.

In a victim impact statement, read to the court, the University of Brighton said that the loss to the institution was “considerably more than the cash value” due to inflation and missed opportunities to invest the funds.

The statement added: “[The theft] had a direct impact on the experience we would have been able to provide to our students over the last 30 years.”

David Hall admitted he was ashamed of his crimes as he arrived at court Credit: ITV News Meridian

The wellbeing of Hall’s former colleagues had been affected, with some staff describing not sleeping properly, and others offered counselling.

The financial losses were not covered by the university’s insurance policies, the court heard, with the judge deferring a confiscation hearing until later in the year.

Defence barrister Tom Nicholson Pratt said Hall had spent the stolen cash on “holidays and fine dining” and despite credit card debts the main motivation for the fraud was “boosting his self-esteem” but the eventual result had been to “destroy himself”.

“He wishes to apologise to his family, his university colleagues and the students who he knows he’s let down so terribly,” Mr Nicholson Pratt told the court, adding that his client would cooperate with forthcoming proceedings to recoup some of the funds.

Passing a total sentence of six years, His Honour Judge Roger Chapple said: “The scale and breadth of your dishonesty over a period of 30 years, is frankly breathtaking.”

He added: “Your dishonesty caused enormous damage to the University of Brighton as well as stress, heartbreak and pressure on your colleagues.

“I pass sentence on behalf of the law-abiding, decent public who face financial difficulties day in, day out but would not dream of committing such criminal offences…You were motivated by greed, pure and simple.”

Prosecution barrister, Tim Devlin, told the court the crimes were a “relatively sophisticated case of false accounting”.

Hall had previously admitted the offences of fraud by abuse of position, theft by an employee and false accounting at a hearing at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 16 February.

Speaking at the time, Sussex Police investigator Rose Horan said: “Year after year, the hole in the university’s finances became larger and more difficult for Hall to conceal.

“After an audit uncovered the scale of Hall’s embezzlement, the University of Brighton was quick to report the fraud to Sussex Police and their support throughout the investigation has been invaluable in bringing David Hall to justice.”

In a statement, a University of Brighton spokesperson said: “David Hall abused his position and betrayed the trust of his colleagues for his own personal gain.

“As soon as the University uncovered Hall’s deception, we acted swiftly and decisively to report this matter to the Police.

“We have supported the Police at every stage of their investigation, commissioning independent forensic investigations which have enabled charges to be brought and the courts to secure a conviction.”

A confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act has been provisionally scheduled for August 2023.