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Members of a school charity which was defrauded out of more than £12,000 by a treasurer has thanked a specialist detective for helping to secure justice for them.
Heather Bailey admitted to one count of fraud by abuse of position and appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday August 3 for sentencing.
The 42-year-old was sentenced to 15 months in jail, suspended for 21 months.
Bailey, of Goodman’s Lane in Great Leighs, was appointed as one of two treasurers for Friends of Tyrrells, a charity that supports the children of Tyrrells Primary School, in Springfield, Chelmsford, in 2016.
Between 2016 and 2018, a total in excess of £12,000 was stolen from the charity account. Part of that money had been earmarked to pay for a new outdoor AstroTurf pitch for the school as well as funding extra-curricular activities.
The fraud came to light ahead of the charity’s annual general meeting in September 2018, where a financial report was due to be presented but never materialised.
It was then found by the new treasurer that Bailey had falsely allocated a £870 cheque to hide money which had been taken. As a result, further concerns were then raised by the charity and more discrepancies uncovered.
Following this discovery, the headteacher of Tyrrells Primary School received an email from Bailey explaining that some of the fundraising money had been spent by someone in her household due to them having a gambling addiction.
When asked how much money had been taken, Bailey initially admitted to the £870 cheque and several other discrepancies. This then led to a full internal audit of the charity’s accounts by the new treasurer which found total losses in excess of £12,000.
During police interview, Bailey confirmed she was aware a family member was taking money, but she did not know how much and that she was hoping to either cover it up or return the money at a later date.
She was then reported for the offence and subsequently pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court on February 8.
Speaking after sentencing, a spokesperson for the Friends of Tyrrells committee said: “We hold so many events with the aim of helping all the children in the school.
“We were hoping to help raise money towards an AstroTurf pitch for the school. Unfortunately, many children currently attending the school won’t see that come to fruition now.
“She was in a position of trust on the committee and her actions have really impacted upon us. Most of all, it has impacted on the children as our focus is always on them.
“I would like to say a real thank you to Essex Police for their hard work on this, especially Rob Bentley, who has always kept us informed and has always been available to help us.
“We can now put this behind us and focus on helping our children. We are not a massive committee, but we give up a lot of our free time to help raise money for the benefit of the pupils and we are extremely proud of that.”
Investigating officer, Detective Constable Rob Bentley, added: “Mrs Bailey was appointed into a position of trust dealing with cash raised from charity events to support the young pupils of Tyrrells Primary School only to use her role to benefit her own financial needs.
“To fraudulently deceive the charity, Mrs Bailey has deprived the pupils of the school of money that was being saved to contribute towards a new sporting facility that would have enhanced their education.
“At the heart of this investigation was a suspect’s need to support a family member’s addiction. Crime is never the solution and there is support available from various external agencies and I urge anyone facing a similar choice to seek help.”