Shotley: ‘Disgraceful’ Lisa Richardson jailed for robbing thousands of pounds from primary school

A FORMER chairman of a Suffolk school’s fundraising association has been jailed for 16 months for embezzling thousands of pounds from its funds.

Lisa Richardson, who was also the treasurer of Shotley Community Primary School Parent and Friends’ Association, milked �7,000 from the voluntary group and landed it with �4,000 bank charges after its account went into the red, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Jailing Richardson, who has a 10-year-old daughter, Judge Rupert Overbury described her actions as “a disgrace” and said although there was no evidence she had spent the money on a lavish lifestyle he noted that �3,000 of the money had been taken in the run up to Christmas.

He said many people had worked hard to raise money to provide activities and better facilities for the children at the school.

“You have literally robbed them of all that opportunity,” said the judge.

He said the headmistress of the school had described Richardson’s actions as “desperately unfair” and said the confidence of the school community had been knocked by what she had done.

Judge Overbury also criticised Richardson’s attempts to lay the blame for the missing money on someone else.

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Richardson, 39, of Orwell Road, Shotley, pleaded guilty to fraud between May 3, 2010 and April 29, 2011 by abusing her position and cashing cheques from a Barclay’s Bank account - in the name of the fundraising association - for herself.

Andrew Shaw prosecuting said that before Richardson became chairman of the association in April 2010 its credit balance was �4,000 but by the end of February 2011 its account was �5,000 overdrawn.

He said that within six months of taking over the job she had depleted the account from �4,000 to just �7.

During the period of the fraud Richardson wrote cheques totalling just under �20,000 but many of these had been returned unpaid.

As well as the loss to the Parent and Friends’ Association postmasters of local post offices where Richardson had cashed cheques had been left �1,200 out of pocket as they had been held personally responsible for the transactions.

Mr Shaw said Richardson’s dishonesty came to light in January 2011 when cheques started to bounce and a police investigation revealed that in addition to writing cheques out to cash she had also paid money into her partner’s bank account and had used the association’s money to pay household bills.

Mr Shaw said �3,481 of the money had been taken in December 2010. “It must have been quite a happy Christmas for the Richardson household at the expense of children at the school,” he said.

Paul Donegan for Richardson said she had no previous convictions and was genuinely sorry for the offences.

He said that when she first joined the association in 2008 she had made a valuable contribution to it.

Mr Donegan said Richardson had an impressive work history and had been employed as a fraud investigator and a claims handler.