A woman from Keighley in the United Kingdom stole more than £20,000 ($25,440) while working for an award-winning craft bakery.
Joan Whitrick, 58, had already served a suspended jail sentence while working as a bookkeeper for a previous employer. However, she had kept that secret from her new bosses after starting work there in 2011.
Whitrick embezzled cash payments of around £60 to £190 a time from the Just Desserts bakery in Shipley to fund her gambling habit. Financial investigators first estimated that she may have stolen as much as £50,000 ($63,590) although this figure was later reduced to £20,105. This rose to £21,498 when the cost of living was taken into account.
A judge had told Whitrick at her trial in January that she would be made to pay back “every penny”.
However, at a Proceeds of Crime Application hearing earlier this week, Judge Durham Hall handed down a very different sentence. The grandmother was ordered to serve 10 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, combined with 300 hours of unpaid work.
With no legal representation, Whitrick told the court that she would have difficulty making any repayments. On the advice of the Crown, Judge Durham Hall agreed to a nominal sum of £10 ($12.72) to be repaid.
He asked Whitrick if she could afford the amount, to which she replied: “£10 and that’s it.”
In January, the court heard how the office administrator had siphoned off the money over a two-year period. A report by Just Desserts showed that while the company continued to trade profitably, Whitrick’s dishonesty made any pay rise and bonuses to the 25-strong staff difficult.
Her spree of stealing was finally uncovered by an audit in May 2016. Suspicion fell upon her and her previous convictions were uncovered.
Back in 2008 she was convicted of benefit fraud and given a suspended prison sentence for stealing £3,000 ($3815) while working as a bookkeeper at Richmond Upholstery in Keighley. Whitrick was also ordered to attend a thinking skills course made up of 15 two-hour lessons, designed to help offenders learn how to stay out of trouble.
She is now working as a sales manager for a different company and has already earned a promotion.
“Tragic” for all concerned
During the sentencing, it was conceded that Whitrick had a significant gambling addiction and had lost all the money that was taken.
Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “It is terrible for the company, and they must feel aggrieved they will never see this money again. Her addiction is clearly a massive issue for her and her family and she needs to get treatment to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That is the most important thing.
“Whether that should be in prison is hard to say without knowing the facts.”