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East Anglian Daily Times | Posted 30th November 2015

Clerk from Glemsford avoids jail over £16k fraud

A Suffolk parish council clerk who carried out a £16,000 fraud by over-ordering stationery items and selling them on the internet has walked free from court after a judge decided not to send her straight to prison.

Sara Turner, 51, who was paid £20,000 per year as Glemsford Parish Council clerk, over-ordered printer cartridges over a two-year period and sold them on Amazon for personal profit, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Turner, of Railway Cottages, Braintree, admitted one offence of fraud between September 2009 and September 2011 and was given a 22-month jail sentence suspended for two years.

She was also given a ten week electronically monitored curfew between 9pm-6am and ordered to do 200 hours’ unpaid work in the community.

Sentencing her, Judge David Goodin said Turner had lied her way through her police interview and in her defence statement before pleading guilty to the charge of fraud in October.

He said the parish council had been a “sitting duck” in relation to her “elentless dishonesty.”

Charles Myatt, prosecuting, said Turner was employed as a part time clerk for the parish council and was authorised to make purchases for up to £500.

He said over a period of two years she had over-ordered stationery items, mainly printer cartridges, to the value of £16,000. “This was far in excess of what the parish council required,” said Mr Myatt.

He said that by ordering in bulk Turner received expensive bonus gifts which were never passed on to the parish council.

He said that when an investigation was started the parish council’s finances were found to be in a “woeful state” with poor recording of items of expenditure.

Mr Myatt said some of the cartridges ordered by Turner didn’t even fit the parish council’s printers.

When the fraud was discovered Turner was suspended and large quantities of computer cartridges were found at her home. “She was selling them for personal gain on Amazon,” said Mr Myatt.

Nicola Devas for Turner said her client had no previous convictions and at the time of the offence she was in financial difficulties arising out of debts left by her second husband.

She said Turner had also been suffering from depression and health problems.

Miss Devas said the thought of a prison sentence filled Turner with dread.

After an earlier hearing, current parish council chairman Michael Brown, who joined the council just as Turner’s fraud was coming to light, said: “We have learnt lessons from this, we certainly have.

“We have made a lot of changes to how we operate. I wouldn’t say it is impossible, but it’s now nearly impossible for something like this to happen again.

“Every councillor sees the books about a week before every meeting. The person who has the chequebook can’t sign the cheques and the person who signs the cheques doesn’t have the book.

“The accounts are presented to the council and anyone who walks up to the office and asks to see our financial records will get them. We are far more transparent now.”