Bookkeeper admits theft from Welwyn Garden City pre-school

PUBLISHED: 10:29 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:29 29 March 2017

Knightsfield Pre-School in Welwyn Garden City has been run by new management since January.

Knightsfield Pre-School in Welwyn Garden City has been run by new management since January.

Archant

A bookkeeper has pleaded guilty to stealing £9,044 from a Welwyn Garden City pre-school.

Linda Chilton, 60, of Ingles, WGC, admitted stealing the money from Knightsfield Pre-School Ltd when she appeared at St Albans magistrates yesterday (Tuesday, March 28).

Neil Smith, prosecuting, said: “There does not seem to be any reason other than greed.”

Chilton, who is still listed as a director of the pre-school, was responsible for handling its books.

Mr Smith said the irregularities in the school’s finances were first noticed in October 2014 by Karen Powell, another director.

Ms Powell challenged Chilton on sluggish payment of invoices, and asked her to step down but Chilton refused, saying she had personal financial commitments.

Mr Smith said the school eventually came into financial difficulties, requiring Ms Powell to pay some of her own money into the school’s account to pay the teachers.

It got to the point where an outside accounting firm had to take over.

Mr Smith said it was eventually revealed Chilton had paid herself a regular additional salary, as well as expenses, on top of her regular £250 monthly salary, totalling £9,044.

He told the bench it was possible Chilton had stolen more than £10,000, but the extra money had been difficult to trace.

She had paid the unauthorised money into a separate account, and on one occasion had paid £350 back to make up for the school’s shortfall.

Mr Smith said Chilton was not a poor woman, having equity in her home, and with her husband had a total monthly salary of around £2,000.

He argued the crime had caused a high level of inconvenience to the school, and the case should be sent to crown court for sentencing.

The bench, chaired by Mark Lemon, sent the case to St Albans Crown Court for April 28 at 9.30am. Chilton was bailed until that time.

•Following the court case, the new owners of Knightsfield Pre-Schoolers LLP would like to reassure families and future customers that it’s business as usual for Knightsfield Pre-Schoolers.

Claire Mason, who is a joint owner with Tina Covill, said: “We took over the pre-school in January of this year to allow it to continue operating and the case that is currently going through the courts relates to Knightsfield Pre-School Ltd (the previous owners) and has no bearing on our business or service.”

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