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Volunteer steals charity's money

PUBLISHED: 09:35 26 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:37 05 July 2010

A volunteer on a project set up for vulnerable people in Lowestoft used the charity's bank card to pay for more than £3,500 of goods for herself, a court heard on Friday.

A volunteer on a project set up for vulnerable people in Lowestoft used the charity's bank card to pay for more than £3,500 of goods for herself, a court heard on Friday.

Dawn West, 43, bought clothes, cigarettes and a computer with cash from the Kirkley Kabin drop-in centre before she was caught, Lowe-stoft Magistrates' Court was told.

West, of London Road South, Lowestoft, was said to have “succumbed to temptation” after being appointed joint treasurer of the new group, which was set up with £35,000 of funding from the Lowestoft Together community organisation.

She pleaded guilty to theft and her case was adjourned for reports, although magistrates said they were considering a community sentence.

Ian Gilbert, prosecuting, said West was given a debit card as part of her role as treasurer, but spent a total of £3,654.47 on personal goods, includ-ing £446.93 on a computer which has since been returned to the charity.

The court heard the offence came to light in a bank statement, but that West was not immediately reported to the police because she was going to try to get a loan to repay the money. However, she was not able to do this and was later charged with theft.

Mr Gilbert said: “This was clearly a breach of trust.”

James Hartley, for West, said she was connected to a local Baptist church and offered to help the new drop-in centre, in London Road South, on a voluntary basis.

“She admitted she used the bank card to buy items that she wouldn't normally be able to afford for herself. She admits she succumbed to temptation,” added Mr Hartley.

Mr Hartley said West, who suffers from an eye condition causing periods of blindness, also used the computer for work with the charity and was in the process of repaying the outstanding sum of £3,207.54.

The court heard West is still a volunteer with another charity, which is standing by her and helping her repay the stolen money by collecting cash from her. A total of £120 has been repaid to date.

Adjourning the case until November 19, chairman of the bench Graham Denny said: “The theft was a breach of trust, which is an aggravating factor.”

However, he added her crime was mitigated by the remorse she had shown and the fact she was making efforts to pay the money back.

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