OUTWELL: A charity treasurer stole £7,000 to cover up debts from her failing stable business
PUBLISHED: 10:31 09 January 2009 | UPDATED: 08:50 02 June 2010
Archant © 2009
A CHARITY treasurer was spared prison after stealing almost £7,000 from a primary school to cover up debts from her failing Upwell stable business.
Melanie Rayner, of Wimbotsham Road, Downham, paid rent, garage bills and for a family holiday using a Frien
A CHARITY treasurer was spared prison after stealing almost £7,000 from a primary school to cover up debts from her failing Outwell stable business.
Melanie Rayner, of Wimbotsham Road, Downham, paid rent, garage bills and for a family holiday using a Friends of Hillcrest school account cheque book.
Appearing before King's Lynn magistrates for sentencing after admitting the offence at an earlier hearing, she was told she had abused her position of trust but would only face a suspended prison sentence as she had immediately paid the money back.
Rayner, now 41, set up her "dream" stable business at Phoenix Lodge in Outwell in 2004 but it later started getting into difficulty.
When her husband was laid off, she had started taking money from the trust to cover up her mounting debts from her family.
Her crime was discovered when cheques started to bounce.
Andrew Baxter, prosecuting, said: "She abused her position and committed a number of acts of fraud.
"Events like this have an impact on smaller charities because there is less confidence in donating money, especially when it goes missing."
In mitigation, James MacWhirter said: "Mrs Rayner was using the funds to meet what she considered legitimate financial emergencies.
"Cheques were cashed to put food on the table. She did not have a lavish lifestyle; she used the money for everyday living."
He added that she had admitted to the crime early on and that she was scared witless about the prospect of going to prison and the effect it would have on her immediate family. She has two daughters who are 12 and six.
Chairman of the bench Sandy Chandler said: "The aggravating factors are that you were in a position of trust. You were working for a charity run by volunteers."
He added that the money had been repaid and that she was confronting mental health issues.
He handed Rayner a 14-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered her to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay £100 in costs.
After the case, a member of the Friends of Hillcrest, who did not want to be named, said she was disappointed that Rayner had not been given a stronger sentence.
She said: "It is difficult to get people to donate money and to support the school and to get people on to the committee when something like this happens."
Linda Howling, headteacher at Hillcrest Primary School, said: "Melanie Rayner was a member of our Friends' group, a charitable trust set up to raise money for the school. She abused her position as treasurer by stealing nearly £7,000 raised specifically to support the school and its pupils.
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