A FINANCE manager at a York college committed a “monstrous breach of trust” when she deliberately overpaid herself over a two-year period, York Crown Court heard.
And the fraud, at the Northern College of Acupuncture in Micklegate, put the institution and its degree plans in jeopardy.
The college is hoping to gain a licence to award its own degrees, its principal Richard Blackwell told the court in a victim impact statement.
But for two years, its employee Daphne Smith, 53, was taking money for herself above what she was entitled to take as salary, prosecution barrister Graham O’Sullivan said.
Summarising Mr Blackwell’s statement, Mr O’Sullivan said: “The defendant’s actions put the college in jeopardy. It has put in peril the college’s application to obtain degree awarding powers.”
To be awarded the degree granting status, the college has to have a minimum level of financial reserves and by February 2020, they were below that level. It is a small institution that relies on student fees.
Mr O’Sullivan said Smith’s crime was discovered when she went on annual leave in the summer of 2019 and her holiday cover saw “enormous irregularities” in the way she had run the accounts. The college investigated and discovered her fraud.
Smith, of Butt Lane, Carlton Husthwaite near Thirsk, pleaded guilty to fraud through abuse of position. The college sacked her in November 2019.
Her solicitor advocate Kevin Blount said she had been short of money and had taken some ahead of her pay date so that she could meet household bills.
She had intended to repay it but never managed to do so.
He handed in details of her medical history covering many years.
The Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris, said her actions had been a “monstrous breach of trust”.
He told her: “Over a period of two years and four months, you pilfered, probably small amounts of money on a weekly or monthly basis, but small amounts of money add up.”
Smith had “very real difficulties”, he said, and had been receiving treatment for depression and anxiety for many years.
“I am quite satisfied in the course of your difficult circumstances mentally you resorted to these crimes without giving it sufficient thought about how it was stacking up.”
She was full of remorse and appearing in court was a punishment in itself for her, the court heard. She had no previous convictions.
Judge Morris gave her a three-year community order with 40 days’ rehabilitative activities.
Mr O’Sullivan said the prosecution believed she had taken £16,000 but did not contest her basis of plea that she had taken £7,000.
The judge sentenced her on the basis she had taken £7,000.