Outrage over stolen money at Lewis Lane Playgroup
ANGRY playgroup leaders, who were rocked when a colleague stole £9,000 from the charity, have called for justice after discovering they may not have the stolen money repaid.
Last month, Claire Thompson from Cirencester walked away from Cheltenham Magistrates Court after admitting that she had stolen £9,000 from the Lewis Lane Playgroup between September 2011 and April 2012, when she was treasurer of the charity.
The 36-year-old was given a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, was ordered to pay back £9,000 to the centre and carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.
But this week, committee members and staff at the Cirencester playgroup were shocked to receive a letter from the court, explaining that the mother-of-two would be paying back only £5,000 of what she owes at a rate of £40 a month.
Playgroup committee chairman Kelly Motti said: "We were stunned. Not only is she not paying it all back, it’s going to take more than ten years for her to pay it off."
A Standard campaign helped to save the playgroup from closure in June after readers raised £8,000 to replace some of the stolen cash.
And Kelly said if it was not for the generosity of the Cotswold community they would now have been sentenced to certain closure by the courts.
"To get just under half of the money back at such a small amount per month is almost like she’s got away with it," Kelly said.
"We’re still catching up on bills and debt and there’s no way we could have survived if it wasn’t for the money donated. "They say that crime doesn’t pay but she’s got £4,000 now that she doesn’t have to pay back."
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, said the situation seemed unfair.
"Lewis Lane Playgroup should receive back the full amount that was unlawfully taken from them," he said. "I will be writing to the playgroup to offer my assistance."
The Lewis Lane Playgroup committee have submitted a complaint to court legal advisors and are waiting for a response.
Cheltenham Magistrates Court was unavailable to comment as the Standard went to press.