Bala woman who defrauded St Asaph firm out of £58k escapes jail

Reporter:

Court Reporter

The accounts manager of a St Asaph firm who took nearly £58,000 from employers has escaped jail following pleas from her employer.

Mother of four Donna Harding, aged 39, started making out cheques to herself when she was “in a dark place” after her husband left her to bring the children up alone.

She later developed a gambling problem and had been on holiday to Las Vegas.

But that was not the driving force for her offending and the Las Vegas trip had been paid for out of a betting win, Mold Crown Court heard.

Harding, of Cae Bach in Bala, admitted she defrauded MCS Test Equipment Ltd between 2011 and 2016, but escaped a prison sentence of up to four years after directors of the company said that they did not wish her to be jailed for what she had done.

Harding received a two year prison sentence suspended for two years, was ordered to carry out 300 hours unpaid work, and was placed on rehabilitation.

Judge Niclas Parry said that she had “abused her position of trust and responsibility” with 100 fraudulent transactions.

She was a lady of good character and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity after admitting what she had done to her employers and to the police.

Numerous references from people spoke of her voluntary commitment and dedication to her community particularly her tireless work in the interests of young children, and her role as her mother of four, the youngest aged ten and six.

Judge Parry said that she was struggling financially and succumbed to temptation.

“I am satisfied that the proceeds of your fraud were spent on you and the family and not on lavish luxury,” he said.

Judge Parry said that it was to the credit of her former employers who had spoken of her in supportive terms.

The prosecution originally alleged that she made out 212 fraudulent cheques which she cashed or deposited into her personal account to the tune of £100,000.

But her basis of plea that she had taken £57,858 was accepted.

Prosecuting barrister Brett Williamson said in August of last year following a small purchase a director noticed that a second payment had been made for the same amount and he realised that the defendant had made out a cheque to her own account.

She was confronted, admitted what she had done, and said that she was relieved that it had come out because it had been hanging over her for a long time.

She and one of the directors went to see the police together where she admitted what she had done.

Harding said that she had been in a dark place, was struggling financially and started taking money to support her children after her husband left.

Defending barrister Elen Owen said Harding, who had fully intended to repay the money but it spiralled out of control, wished to publicly apologise to her former employers.

She suffered from depression and had not sought help previously because of an aversion to taking medication.

Miss Owen said that the pre-sentence report mentioned her gambling and a holiday to Las Vegas.

That was something she was introduced to in April 2016  - which was fairly recent. It was certainly not the reason she started offending.

The holiday which she went on with four friends and cost £900 was paid for out of a betting win.

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