Parish clerk jailed for thefts to repay loans

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Lynne Turner, the 50-year-old clerk to Hughenden Parish Council in Buckinghamshire, has been jailed for stealing £28,000 from the council, after her debts spiraled out of control, and she took out Wonga Loans.

So what did she do, and how is debt fueling these problems?
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The Daily Mail reported that Turner had first fallen into debt when she was building an extension on her property. She owed £338,000 on her mortgage, and built up another £90,000 of debt.

She was trying to balance a number of credit cards and loans, and turned to high interest loans from Wonga.com.

However, the debt became unmanageable, and she started stealing from the council. Over a nine month period she took £28,200.

Caught

Her thefts came to light after she left her role, and her replacement noticed a number of discrepancies with the finances. She asked Turner about the issues, and was not satisfied with the responses.

According to the Bucks Free Press, in summing up the prosecutor said: "Let me start by saying the crown doesn't suggest in any way that this is the most sophisticated of fraud."

The jury found it simple enough to find her guilty of ten counts of fraud, and the judge to jail her for nine months.

Driven by debt

Being driven to crime by debts that have spiraled out of control is nothing new - even for the kinds of people who would never normally be suspected of this sort of thing.

At the end of last year, Trina Jones, a 45 year old personal assistant to Denbighshire County Council's finance director, was found guilty of stealing £23,000 to pay off loans - after her husband ran up debts in her name and left her at the mercy of loan sharks.

A couple of years earlier, Roger Smith, a bank manager from Weston Crescent, Aldridge, Walsall, pleaded guilty to having stolen £95,000 from the bank over a five year period in order to pay his debts.

And a couple of years before that Joanne Gordon, an assistant at Duvant Post Office was found guilty of having stolen £14,000 to pay debts. She took the money from accounts, taking advantage of any time the postmistress left her computer unattended and logged in.

Parish clerks, bank managers, trusted assistants, post office workers: they are all fine, upstanding members of the community. It goes to show the pressure of debts and the impossible choices people make when they feel squeezed by this sort of situation.

But what do you think, would this pressure ever tempt you to cross the line? Let us know in the comments.

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Parish clerk jailed for thefts to repay loans

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