Engaines Primary School friends group treasurer avoids prison after fraud involving up to £5,000

Engaines Primary School in Little Clacton. Picture: MATT STOTT

Engaines Primary School in Little Clacton. Picture: MATT STOTT - Credit: Archant

The treasurer of the friends group at a north Essex primary school has narrowly avoided prison after admitting fraud involving up to £5,000 of the group’s funds.

Donna Curtis, of Harwich Road, Little Clacton, was appointed treasurer of the Friends of Engaines Primary School, in St Osyth Road, in February 2012.

Two years later though, on June 4, 2014, the 41-year-old was arrested after it was discovered up to £5,000 was missing from the fund.

Her trial was due to begin in July, but at the last minute she changed her plea to guilty as a revised charge of fraud by abuse of position was put forward.

Speaking at Chelmsford Crown Court at the time, Judge David Turner QC told the defendant her decision to plead guilty was sensible.

He said: “You sensibly have, a little late in the day, admitted guilt.”

Originally the amount involved in the case was said to be £12,523.

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However, at an earlier hearing the counsel accepted that, although it was difficult to say exactly how much money was taken from the primary school, it was “up to £5,000”.

Curtis pleaded guilty in that she did not account for all the money received by the Friends of Engaines Primary School.

She also pleaded guilty that she did not pay all designated money into the bank account since the start of her employment to her arrest.

At her sentencing, Chelmsford Crown Court heard the family was saddled with more than £20,000 worth of debts.

Curtis was told the recommended starting point for her crime would be nine months in prison.

In mitigation, however, Gavin Capper said this was the first time Curtis had committed an offence and that the mother-of-three was of previous good character.

The court also heard that her youngest son, just 12-years-old, had been bullied as a result of her actions.

After hearing counsel, Judge David Turner QC told the court it would be a “grave” punishment to send Curtis to prison.

Instead, he decided to hand her a six-month suspended sentence for 18 months.

She was also ordered to pay £2,500 in compensation to the primary school for her crime as well as being told to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.

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