A woman who stole thousands from a school’s bank account has been given a 12-week suspended prison sentence.
Rebecca Chapman, 35, was sentenced at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court yesterday after pleading guilty to six fraud charges.
Mother-of-two Chapman, of Walton Road, Wisbech, took almost £2,700 from an account belonging to the town’s Clarkson Infant and Nursery School.
The money had been raised by parents to pay for “special treats” for children, and a donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Susanna Chowdhury, prosecuting, told the court the offences were carried out between September 2011 and January this year while Chapman worked at the small community school and was in control of the account cheque book.
She added: “The account was used for trips and special treats for the schoolchildren and the money was raised through donations and sponsorship at school events. Some of the money was also used to donate to charity.
“The headmaster at the school became concerned by lack of funds in the account and asked the defendant about this and asked for her to provide statements.
“After she failed to do this, he then went to the bank and obtained statements for himself. He then went to speak to the defendant again and this time she told him there was a second account although no-one else knew of its existence.
“She then produced information which she claimed related to the account – paperwork the bank has since said is fraudulent.”
Miss Chowdhury said Chapman wrote out four cheques to herself and one to her partner which ranged from £327 to £726.
She added two of the cheque stubs stated the money was used to pay for “Jubilee Coins” and to donate to London-based Great Ormond Street Hospital.
In mitigation Alison Muir said Chapman had been with her partner for 16 years and had two children, but keeping the family finances in the black led to financial difficulties.
She said Chapman had paid £1,734 back to the school which leaves an outstanding balance of £957.
“She was keen for her children to have what they could afford She took out a credit card but soon reached the credit limit so she took out a loan to pay the credit card off,” said Ms Muir.
“She then took out another credit card to pay the loan off and matters came to a head shortly after she arrived at the school when she was struggling to keep up with her mortgage repayments.
“She started to borrow money from the school. It was a short term solution which has caused a big problem. She was never going to be able to repay the money.
“It was quite apparent she was going to be found out. It was not sophisticated in anyway, Her partner did not understand they were in such financial difficulties.
“She was quite fearful her partner would leave her and the children but he has been very understanding. All of her family now know which has taken a huge weight of her shoulders because everyone has been there to support her.”
Lead magistrate Angela Blenkinsop gave Chapman a 12-week prison sentence suspended for 18 months and told her to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
She was also told she must pay the outstanding balance owed to the school as well as £85 court costs.