Forgiveness after £7,000 church theft

| June 3, 2010

A church finance administrator stole more than £7,000 to pay off spiralling debts.

Joanne Arnold, 39, avoided a jail sentence despite pleading guilty to three counts of theft after a court heard how the Diocese of Wakefield had forgiven her for what she had done.

Arnold, who worked for the diocese for 14 years, transferred money belonging to her employers into her own bank account to pay off credit card bills, catalogue debts, overdrafts and personal loans.

Barbara Lennon, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court that Arnold stole £3,720, on April 11 2007, which was meant to be paid into the account of a Rev Fletcher.

Later that month she paid another £1,938 into her account which was supposed to pay for office repairs.

In March 2009 she stole a further £1,713 which should have been paid to office contractors.

Arnold, of Harvey Street, Barnsley, was found out after an audit was held last November and suspended from her job.

She then handed herself in at a police station where she told officers she took the money to pay off debts.

Chris Aspinall, mitigating, told the court how on each occasion the money had been paid to the intended recipient but Arnold had also made a duplicate payment into her own account.

He said: "Given the system of accounting it would not have been immediately clear that there were two payments made."

Mr Aspinall said Arnold now worked as a carer earning around £1,000 a month and was still in serious debt.

He said her problems stemmed from the break-up of her marriage when she was left with debts.

Mr Aspinall said Arnold, who was supported in court by member of the clergy, fully intended to pay the money back to the diocese when she was in a position to do so.

He said: "The money, when it was taken, did not satisfy the debts that she had. It simply allowed her to keep her head above water."

Judge Scott Wolstenholme gave Arnold a 12 month community order and 200 hours unpaid work.

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Category: Church Security