A DEPUTY headteacher had a “substantial” fall from grace, a judge said, as he sentenced her for stealing more £8,000 from her school.
Susan England admitted stealing the money from the after school club at Ysgol Bro Carmel near Holywell, where she had worked for 35 years.
England, who celebrated her 58th birthday yesterday by being sentenced at Mold Crown Court, was given a 12-month community order and was tagged for five months to ensure she remains indoors between 7pm and 7am.
The court heard she made out cheques to herself, to her daughter, made some out to cash, and also used cheques to pay finance companies – while one was used to pay a slimming consultant.
England was said to be £15,000 in debt because of depression and “comfort shopping” after the death of her husband.
A financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act will now take place to see how much of money, if any, can be recovered.
The court heard her adult son was prepared to pay the compensation in full to the school.
England admitted seven fraud charges and asked for 33 similar offences to be taken into consideration.
Judge Dafydd Hughes said: “You were put in a position of trust and you betrayed that trust.
“You seriously let yourself down. You were a person of exemplary character before these offences were committed.”
He added: “That is the tragedy of this case. Your fall from grace has been substantial.”
Jayne La Grua, prosecuting, said England, of Victoria Road, Prestatyn, was treasurer of Carmel Cares, the after school club, to which parents paid fees for their children to be looked after before and after school.
In January of last year headteacher Joanne Garbutt took over as chairman of the committee. A review of the accounts was arranged and it was agreed that England would be offered additional support to help her manage the club.
She appeared to take exception to allowing anyone else being involved in the financial management of the club and the following day said she wanted to resign.
The head asked her to think about it over the weekend but the following week England went off sick because of stress.
It was found from the bank accounts that the club appeared to be running at a loss, unaccounted for cheques had been made out and auditors from Flintshire County Council found a total of 40 unaccounted for transactions.
They amounted to £8,386 but some cheques bounced so that total benefit to England had been £7,876.
England kept the financial records at her home and when the head confronted her and asked for the accounts, she said she had destroyed them.
The police were called. She admitted what she had done and told how she had made out cheques because she was in debt.
She had been comfort shopping – she had bought clothes for example to cheer herself up and then felt low because of the additional debt that she had.
Miss La Grua said it was clear that before the offending came to light, England was regarded as a highly respected, valuable and trusted member of staff at the school.
She was a senior staff member and assistant head at the school, where she was also a governor for many years.
The offences occurred between December 2007 and December 2010.
Patrick Williamson, defending, said an Ofsted report singled her out as a role model for others in the locality.
“My client has been a stalwart serving the community,” he said.
She now rarely went out in case she met parents or others at the school.
It was clear she had suffered severe depression following the death of her husband, and she was under pressure from creditors including her mortgage
company, to which she was £7,000 in arrears.
Unfortunately she had not approached her family who were now so ready to help her.
“She speaks of her shame, embarrassment and disgust at the offences she has committed,” he said.
She had been proud of her career at the school and was now distraught at the position she found herself in.