A former administrator who stole almost £20,000 from a charity-funded pre-school in Northampton will not have to pay any of the money back, a judge has ruled.
Julie Ward, aged 48, of Emley Close, Standens Barn in Northampton, appeared in Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday to be sentenced 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 to be banked.
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 Ward’s theft was uncovered after she was asked to hand over the charity’s financial books, which she had in her possession, because the charity was changing its committee.
She said: “The defendant became obstructive and said the committee had ‘no right’ to look at the books. She even denied ever having the books.”
Ward finally handed over the books and sent a letter to the playgroup’s chairperson confessing what she had done.
An independent accountant was brought in to look through the books and found £19,704 was missing. Despite her guilty plea, Ward denied stealing £4,700 of petty cash and said she had only stolen £15,000.
The court heard that Ward had stolen the money because she had racked up huge debts to payday loan companies.
Mrs Allen said Ward had got herself into a situation where she was “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The prosecutor said Ward had told police that she had written the letter because she wanted to “accept the consequences of what she had done.”
His Honour Judge Timothy Smith, sentencing, said Ward had “taken the easy way out” after finding herself in financial difficulty”.
“This was an awful lot of money that was lost to this pre-school and you are not in a position to pay it back.”
Judge Smith sentenced Ward to 10 months in prison, suspended for 12 months. She must also complete 200 hours unpaid work.
The judge said he would not be making a compensation order to repay the money to Daisy Chain pre-school due to the financial position of Ward, who is a single mother-of-two on benefits.
Ward must pay a victim surcharge of £100.