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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Askam postmistress falsified accounts, court rules

AN ASKAM postmistress used money from the business to keep afloat a convenience outlet under the same roof.

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Sarah Crossley, known as Jane

Sarah Crossley, known as Jane, falsified eight branch weekly trading statements and daily cash declarations, Preston Crown Court heard.

She used the Post Office branch “as her own banking overdraft facility”, the court heard.

Matters came to light after an audit was carried out at the Askam branch last December. A man who turned up to carry it out was told the Post Office would be short by around £9,500.

The offence was carried out over a nine-month period last year and the total loss was calculated at £10,261.52. All the money in the case has been repaid.

Crossley, 40, of High Duddon Close, Askam, was given a three-month jail term, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

She had admitted pleaded guilty to a charge of false accounting.

Before that she had done her job for 12 years without complaint.

Mr Simon Clarke, prosecuting on behalf of the Post Office, said in interview Crossley admitted to falsifying branch weekly trading statements and daily cash declarations.

She had kept a written record giving details of money she took and when she put the money back.

Mr Clarke said: “She was using the Post Office branch as her own banking overdraft facility, to support the retail business.”

The convenience business had been revamped at a cost of about £65,000 in 2011, the court heard.

Mr Ken Hind, defending, said Crossley and her husband had been advised by the retail consortium that their turnover would

increase if they invested in the convenience store. But the projections never came about, leaving them with a £50,000 black hole.

Mr Hind said: “Efforts were made to reduce their overheads. They cut the number of staff. Both of them worked all the hours they possibly could to try and meet the demands of the repayment.

“There was a clear intention to pay the money back to the Post Office. The business was sold for a quarter of a million and less than it was valued at.

“She has no assets or anything arising from it. At the moment she is unemployed. She really regrets what has happened. She has lost her good reputation.

“There has been considerable amounts of publicity, I am told, in Barrow and the associated shame that comes with it. She will not appear in these courts again.”

Judge Robert Altham said it was a very serious matter, adding she had been in a position of trust as someone who operated the business.

He added: “I accept you took all the steps you could before deciding to take the money from the business.

“When that failed you crossed an important line. You took the decision to effectively borrow from the Post Office in order to support the convenience store.”

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