The chairman of a committee that runs a charity-funded pre-school in Northampton said she was “very disappointed” that a former employee, who stole £20,000, will not go to prison or have to pay any of the money back.
Administrator Julie Ward, aged 48, of Emley Close, Standens Barn, appeared in Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to stealing £19,700 from the Daisy Chain Pre-School in Northampton.
The court heard Ward had stolen thousands of pounds worth of fees paid by parents that had been given to her in cash to be banked.
Jenna Allen, prosecuting, said Ward had told police she had stolen the money to pay for huge debts she had racked up with pay day loan companies.
Mrs Allen said Ward had got herself into a situation where she was “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
After hearing Ward was now an unemployed single mother of two children, His Honour Judge Timothy Smith gave her a 10-month suspended sentence and did not make an order for her to pay any compensation to Daisy Chain Pre-School.
Carolyn Bean, chairman of the pre-school committee, said she felt the sentence was not an adequate punishment for the damage Ward had caused to the charity’s finances.
She said: “I am very disappointed. It is going to take us several years to get back on track. We are now very limited on budget for buying new equipment. I was a friend of Julie Ward’s for 10 years and we all feel totally let down by her. She would have been aware how difficult it was to raise money as she was a trustee of the charity.
“The majority of our parents are also single mums who are fighting for every penny, so they are in the same position as her.”
Despite the fact the judge made no order for compensation, Mrs Bean said she would be talking to the charity’s solicitors to see if they could make a civil claim to get some of the money back.
The theft of almost £20,000 was only uncovered after Julie Ward was asked to hand over the financial books to the Daisy Chain Pre-school management committee.
Jenna Allen, prosecuting, said Ward carried out the theft over a two-and-a-half year period from January 2011 until June last year.
Mrs Allen said, after being asked to hand over the books, Ward became “obstructive” and said the committee had ‘no right’ to look at the books.
Ward finally handed over the books and sent a letter to the playgroup’s chairman confessing what she had done.
Ward must now complete 200 hours of community service. The only financial penalty she received was the statutory victim surcharge of £100.