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East Anglian Daily Times | Posted 17th November 2011

Dishonest parish council clerk walks free from court

A DISHONEST parish council clerk who lined his own pockets by stealing money and then forged documents to cover his tracks has walked free from court after being given a suspended prison sentence.

Sentencing Michael Hallatt to an eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years, Judge Martin Binning said, “Your behaviour like your evidence was thoroughly dishonest.”

He said Hallatt had forged authorisations for payment and minutes of meetings and was in breach of a high level of trust that had been placed in him at Great Blakenham Parish Council.

He said that in denying the offences he had cast aspersions on other people connected with the parish council.

In addition to the suspended prison sentence Judge Binning ordered Hallatt to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work in the community.

Hallatt, 58, of Angel Lane, Woodbridge had denied two offences of theft and five offences of false accounting and was found guilty of all the offences except for one offence of false accounting.

During the trial the court heard that Hallatt began working for the parish council in November 2007 but inlate 2009 and early 2010 councillors had become suspicious about what was going on and an investigation had revealed “serious irregularities”.

It was discovered that Hallatt had set up internet banking and transferred money without the knowledge of councillors. It was also found that he had falsified minutes of council meeting and forged councillors’ signatures by “scanning” them on to documents.

The court heard that after distributing copies of the minutes to councillors and getting them signed by the chairman, Hallatt had “tampered” with them to conceal payments that were going to him.

Hallatt denied acting dishonestly and said he had always strived to improve the council’s efficiency but claimed he had been stopped from doing his job properly by councillors.