Norfolk parish council clerk stole £11,000, court told

Sarah Berwick. Photograph Simon Parker

Sarah Berwick. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

A parish council clerk who stole more than £11,000 and gave herself a pay rise without authorisation has been given a suspended jail sentence and ordered to carry out unpaid work.

Sarah Berwick, 41, from Hall Lane, Wacton, appeared for sentencing at Norwich magistrates' court yesterday, after earlier pleading guilty to false accounting and theft by an employee.

The court heard that she falsified an audit report, by forging the signature of David Renaut, increased her own salary without it being authorised and also doctored bank statements between May 2, 2009 and May 13 this year.

She also stole a credit balance, to the value of £11,011.48 belonging to Forncett Parish Council, between May 1, 2009 and December 7, 2012.

Prosecutor Ben Brighouse said she was employed in a clerking role with responsibility for finances.

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He said: 'Basically, she stole money, and fiddled the books. As is the case with so many breaches of trust, she has no previous convictions.'

Dave Foulkes, for Berwick, said her father had paid back the sum she stole in full.

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He said: 'It will remain a personal debt between herself and her father, and she intends to pay it.

'Her husband's debts ran up without her knowledge. Not surprisingly, she lost her job, and finding work is not going to be easy. She volunteered herself to police before any complaint had been made.'

District judge Peter Veits told her: 'This is a heavy breach of trust. Over a period of time you helped yourself to money from the accounts. The offences are so serious to justify custody.'

He gave her a 20-week jail sentence suspended for one year and ordered her to do 100 hours unpaid work. She must also pay £85 costs and a £80 victim surcharge.

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