Most charities rely heavily on voluntary workers but it should never be assumed that benevolence equates to honesty. In one case, the treasurer of a Women’s Institute branch fleeced the organisation of more than £17,000 over an eight-year period.
The middle-aged woman abused her position of trust to siphon the branch’s funds into her own bank account. She had at the time been suffering from a series of personal tragedies, including the loss of a child. Some of the money was recovered after she was caught, but the branch suffered a loss of £12,234. She was ultimately jailed for 10 months after admitting a number of theft charges.
The facts of the case emerged as the Court of Appeal dismissed her challenge to the sentence. The Court noted that there are thousands of people nationwide in positions of financial trust whose honesty is central to the proper administration of charities, large and small. Public confidence in the charity system demanded a deterrent sentence and a substantial custodial term was inevitable.