‘Searing unadulterated shame’ of police worker who falsified expenses

Clark worked at Halesworth police station Picture: SIMON PARKER

Clark worked at Halesworth police station Picture: SIMON PARKER

A police employee has been ordered to repay almost £1,700 in fraudulent expenses claims.

Maria Clark was also handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting four counts of fraud by false representation while working for Suffolk Constabulary as a business support officer.

Clark, 52, of Barons Close, Halesworth, made about 90 claims for work-related mileage in her own car, despite making the journeys in a police vehicle.

The false claims were made over six months of 2015, five months of 2016, 11 months of 2017, and on January 9, 2018, amounting to £1,671.55 – about half the otherwise valid £3,259.60 she claimed while based at Halesworth police station.

Suffolk Magistrates’ Court heard how an audit revealed anomalies in fuel purchases made on a credit card entrusted to Clark for business payments.

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Prosecutor Wayne Ablett said further examination exposed 90 transactions for journeys declared at Clark’s own expense but actually made in a police vehicle.

“This was a high culpability fraud by abuse of trust or responsibility,” he added.

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James Landles, mitigating, said Clark felt “searing unadulterated shame” for her actions.

Magistrates were handed the statements of colleagues, including Inspector Mark Jackson, who had recommended Clark for a merit award in recognition of taking on work from another business support area office during a staff absence.

“He found her knowledgeable, helpful and capable of always producing work of a high standard,” added Mr Landles, who argued Clark was ultimately undone by her willingness to take on extra work while coping with her step-father’s death and mother’s medical issues.

“She can’t say why she did it,” Mr Landles told the court.

“She could point to confusion or workload, but she has to accept responsibility and whatever punishment the court deems appropriate.”

Clark, the wife of a retired police sergeant, was dismissed in April after 19 years with the force.

Presiding magistrate Michael Sweeting said: “You are a woman of previously good character. I find it hard to understand why you put this all at risk and now stand convicted in the dock.”

Clark received a 20-week prison term, suspended for a year, with 200 hours of unpaid work. She must pay costs and compensation.

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