North Norfolk parish clerk jailed after embezzling more than �70,000

A treasurer who abused her position of trust and defrauded more than �72,500 from five Norfolk parish councils and the Royal British Legion has been jailed for 18 months today.

Patricia Temple-Crowe, 58, was treasurer of Cley, Stiffkey, Morston, Wiveton and Langham parish councils and also treasurer of the Blakeney and Cley branch of the legion and Norfolk poppy appeal co-ordinator.

Norwich Crown Court heard that she took the cash after getting into debt over a seven year period and covered her tracks by forging the auditor's signature so the various organisations were unaware of her dishonesty.

She took �23,884 from Cley parish council, �26,943 from Morston parish council, �4,286 from Stiffkey, �2,647 from Wiveton and �1,719 from Langham.

She also defrauded the Royal British Legion of �12,841.

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However she did eventually confess what she had done and has been made bankrupt. Temple-Crowe has since repaid about �46,000 after she received compensation for an injury she got to her foot on Southampton docks after she had been on a transatlantic cruise.

Some of the organisations have still be left out of pocket, including Cley parish council which has still lost �10,000.

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Temple-Crowe of High Street, Blakeney, admitted fraud and was jailed for 18 months.

Judge Philip Curl told her she deserved full credit for her admissions but said she had resorted to fraud after getting into debt: 'This was a profound abuse of trust and continued for a long period of time.'

He said she had defrauded the parish councils and her actions were likely to have an impact.

He said: 'It's extremely difficult for parish councils to make ends meet and losses such as this brought about by fraud are likely to have a severe impact.'

He said she had also taken cash from the Royal British Legion which was a well respected charity.

'This charity is particularly valued by the public at large.'

Nick Methold, prosecuting, said that Temple-Crowe was 'deeply trusted' and had the authority to sign cheques for the parish councils she was treasurer for.

He said she made out cheques to herself and when another signature was required she either forged it or obtained it by deceit, claiming she needed a cheque for another purpose.

He said she also forged the auditors signature, otherwise if there had been a proper audit it would have thrown up her dishonesty.

He said that she claimed the cash had not been used for any high living but said she had paid �15,000 each for her two daughter's wedding receptions and she had sustained a foot injury after being on a transalantic cruise with Cunnard.

Katharine Moore, for Temple Crowe, said it was fraud rather than theft as she always intended to try to repay the money.

'She reported her own misdeeds and arranged with the police to be interviewed.'.

She said that since the matter had come to light Temple-Crowe had been ostracised.

'She has been ostracised by those she used to think were her friends', she said.

Miss Moore said that Temple-Crowe's husband had died at 58 leaving her with very little cash. 'She could barely support herself. This is not a case of her living a life of luxury.'

Following the case investigating officer Det Con Riki Chase, from Great Yarmouth CID, said: 'Temple-Crowe abused her position of responsibility within the parish councils and Royal British Legion to enable her to commit these offences and I hope that this sends a message out to the public that these type of offences will be not be tolerated.'

A spokesman for The Royal British Legion said: 'The theft of a considerable sum of money intended to help our brave Armed Forces, veterans and their families is clearly a serious crime. We are satisfied that it was detected and has been dealt with by the court.'

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