Woman denies pocketing £7k of Wigan school funds

A school business manager pocketed funds from a pupils' outing, the proceeds from a breakfast club and nursery subs totalling nearly £7,700, a court heard.

Thursday, 14th December 2017, 10:20 am
Updated Thursday, 14th December 2017, 11:25 am

Prosecutors say that Sharon Hunter, who oversaw financial affairs for St William’s RC Primary at Ince, was only caught out after four years in the job following an audit by Wigan Council.

Hunter twice claimed she was ill when auditors asked to check the books at the Ince Green Lane school in early 2016, Bolton Crown Court was told.

And when the authority watchdog analysed the accounts they could find very little paperwork, accounting for financial transactions at St William’s, the court heard

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Hunter, of Turner Avenue, Bickershaw, is on trial after denying three offences of theft from the school, each having taken place over different time periods.

Julian Goode, prosecuting, told jurors that when council auditor Antony Meehan checked the budget for school trips, which had been delegated to Hunter, he could find evidence of only one outing, dating back to November 2013.

While it was recorded that £2,785 had been collected, towards the outing, the accounts showed only £1,280 had been banked, he told the court.

And of this sum it emerged that £200 actually related to another matter, leaving a shortfall of £1,050, said Mr Goode.

Jurors heard that the school also operated a breakfast club, for which parents could pay £1.50 per day or £6 per week, to ensure youngsters received a hot meal first thing in the morning.

One of the school’s teaching assistants, Caroline Lavin, collected the money from parents each week and would be given receipts by Hunter after handing over the payments, the court was told.

But Mr Goode said it was the prosecution’s case that while £4,353 had been handed to Hunter, between June 2014 and December 2015, all of it remained unaccounted for.

Mr Goode told jurors the final charge related to fees handed over by parents for nursery sessions at St William’s.

Nursery teacher Beth Speakman kept records of the payments and an estimated £1,798 was given to Hunter for a period between August 2015 and the beginning of 2016, which was also not banked, it is alleged.

Mr Goode added: “The total amount not banked by the defendant, for the three counts, is £7,889.83. The prosecution say that much of the paperwork has been lost or is missing.

“All that remains is the receipt book from Caroline Lavin, one of the books kept by Miss Speakman, for the nursery money, and one book relating to the school trip.”

Arrested and interviewed about the thefts by police, Hunter denied all of the offences and acting dishonestly in any way while working at St William’s, the court was told.

She said that the discrepancies were “purely down to poor accounting” or that the missing money had in fact been spent as petty cash, jurors heard.