Askam postmistress receives suspended jail term for false accounting

A SOUTH Cumbrian sub postmistress who used money from the business to keep a convenience outlet afloat under the same roof has been given a suspended jail term.

Sarah Crossley kept a record of all the sums she borrowed - and then she paid back the Post Office.

Matters came to light after an audit was carried out at the Askam-in-Furness branch last December. A man who turned up to carry it out was told the Post Office would be short by around £9,500 - the total loss was calculated at £10,261.52. All the money in the case has since been repaid.

At Preston Crown Court the 42-year-old woman, of High Duddon Close, was given a sentence of three months prison, suspended for two years, with an order to carry out 200 hours unpaid work. She had pleaded guilty to a charge of false accounting.

The offence was carried out over a nine month period last year. Before that she had done her job for 12 years without complaint.

Simon Clarke, prosecuting on behalf of the Post Office, said that in interview she admitted having falsifying eight branch weekly trading statements. She had falsified daily cash declarations.

She had kept a written record giving details of money she took and when she put the money back.

Mr Clarke said: "She was using the post office branch as her own banking overdraft facility, to support the retail business."

The convenience business had been revamped at a cost of something like £65,000 in 2011. She was a woman of previous good character.

Ken Hind, in mitigation said, she and her husband Stephen had been advised by the retail consortium that their turnover would increase if they invested in improving the convenience store. But the projections that were proposed never came about - leaving them with £50,000 refurbishment costs.

The business decision had been taken in good faith.

"Efforts were made to reduce their overheads,” said Mr Hind. “They cut the number of staff. Both of them worked all the hours they possibly could to try and meet the demands of the repayment.

"There was a clear intention to pay the money back to the Post Office. The business was sold for a quarter of a million and less than it was valued at.

"The business is a complete and total loss. She has no assets or anything arising from it. At the moment she is unemployed."

The barrister added: "She really regrets what has happened. She has lost her good reputation. She will not appear in these courts again".

Judge Robert Altham told her it was a very serious matter. She had been in a position of trust as someone who operated the business.

He added: "I accept you took all the steps you could before deciding to take the money from the business. When that failed you crossed an important line. You took the decision to effectively borrow from the Post Office in order to support the convenience store."

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