BREAKING: North Somercotes playgroup manager jailed for three years

Lincoln Crown Court.
Lincoln Crown Court.

The manager of a play group who stole so much money from the organisation that its future was put at risk was today (Friday) jailed for three years at Lincoln Crown Court.

Julie Sharp, manager of the North Somercotes play group, took more than £30,000 over a two year period spending the money on expensive handbags and jewellery.

Her thefts affected the charity so much that there was not enough money to pay other staff.

Sharp, 49, of East Row, South Somercotes, admitted a charge of furnishing false information on dates between April 4, 2014 and March 16, 2016.

Recorder Gareth Evans QC, passing sentence, described her actions as “wicked”.

He told her “Over a long period of time you plundered for your own benefit the funds of a charity.

“You put at risk the very existence of that charity. If it had gone under innocent people would have suffered.

“People went without wages while you were able to spend the money you had stolen on jewellery and handbags. It was wicked what you did to that charity.”

Mark Watson, prosecuting, said that Sharp over-paid herself and also over-paid her daughter who worked at the play group.

Sharp also used the play group’s funds to buy items for herself including a camera and a lap top computer.

“She was in the position of manager. As a result she had complete control over the finances and, importantly, the wages.

“She used that position to line her own pockets.”

Mr Watson said that an initial investigation began after other staff complained of bullying.

Further inquiries took place and receipts for items were found which were not for the play group. It was then discovered that Sharp had been paying herself a higher hourly rate than what she was entitled to and had made unauthorised maternity payments to her daughter.

“We say the overpayment to herself over that period was £33,564.

“At the same time as the defendant was taking money for herself, members of staff were not being paid.”

When Sharp was asked by staff how she could afford expensive jewellery and handbags she claimed to have received a PPI payment.

“After she had left the laptop she used was looked at. It was clear she had spent much of her time at the nursery group shopping.”

It was later discovered that no PAYE payments had been deducted for 11 months, and the play group had amassed a large amount of debt.

After Sharp left, a fundraising campaign was organised which raised £10,000 towards clearing debts.

Mr Watson said: “That shows the dire straits the charity had been left in.”

Hannah Walker, for Sharp, said she was of previous good character and currently suffers from mental health problems.

Miss Walker said “She has lost her good name and lost a job that she genuinely loved.”