A JUDGE has cleared the way for Market Weighton Pre-School to sue two fraudsters who pocketed £11,000 and haven’t repaid a penny.
At Hull Crown Court this week, Judge Jeremy Baker QC imposed suspended prison sentences and community orders on the school’s former treasurer Louise Precious and her husband Robert.
He said he predicts that the school, which has charitable status, will take civil legal action against the pair, using the criminal conviction he has given them as evidence.
Judge Baker was speaking at Hull Crown Court on Monday as he imposed a 12-month suspended prison sentence on Louise Precious, 39, a call centre worker.
He imposed a six-month suspended sentence on Robert Precious, 40, a garage parts manager, of Aspen Close, Market Weighton.
Louise Precious admitted being in a position of trust when she stole cash in £300 and £400 amounts over 18 months.
Robert Precious pleaded guilty to a charge of converting criminal property by allowing £5,055 to be paid into his HSBC bank account knowing it was the proceeds of crime.
Judge Baker said: “An immediate custodial sentence could be justified for circumstances such as these.
“In my judgment, it would not be an appropriate use of tax-payers’ money to put you both in prison.
“Not only would it ruin your family life, but it would affect your ability to repay your debts; including to the Market Weighton Pre-School Group - who I envisage will take action against you.
“In these circumstances I feel I can just suspend the sentence I impose.”
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He said he had taken into account their age and good character up to their 40s. He also ordered Mrs Precious should complete the maximum 300 hours unpaid work in the community and her husband 100 hours.
The court heard Louise Precious, who had a role as a deputy supervisor, had begun stealing sums of cash from the pre-school, siphoning it off into her own accounts while being responsible for paying bills for the school.
She was sacked for gross misconduct last July.
The school, which is registered with Ofsted, has been established 25 years and relies heavily on fundraising to cover its costs
The court heard the couple had both managed to keep their jobs despite the scandal. They have children aged 19 and 17 from a previous marriage, but did not make clear what would happen to their daughter, aged 13, if they were jailed.
It emerged they had made no plans to repay the money and made no offer to the court.
Defence barrister Bernard Gateshill said Louise Precious had taken over the role of treasurer for the charity when her stepfather retired from the role and no one else wanted the job.
He said she began to steal when the cost of family credit card repayment got too much.
He said: “The availability of credit cards has allowed people - and this is not an excuse - to live beyond their means.
“They had expenditure above their income.
“This was funded by credit cards that were an expensive means of borrowing, which only compounded the problem.
“Indeed, that is the root of all the economic problems that we now face. People living beyond their means.”
“She took up the job out of obligation to her stepfather. She is remorseful. Ordinarily she would be an upstanding, splendid member of the community, but she has lost her good name.”
He said the family has been able to consolidate their debts and are making repayments from their wages while in work.
Barrister Steven Garth said the couple had been married 10 years and Mr Precious worked in a local car dealership.
He said his criminality was less than his wife’s and he was concerned about what would happen to their 13-year-old daughter if they were jailed.
Judge Baker said Mrs Precious was in a position of a high degree of trust and had abused the trust of the pre-school group.
He said Mr Precious knew what his wife was up to, but not immediately.
They were both allowed to walk free from court, but not before seeing the Humberside Probation Service to arrange their community work.