Fraudster who took thousands from village institute facing jail

Lancaster Magistrates and Family Court
Lancaster Magistrates and Family Court
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The former treasurer of a historic village institute is facing jail after admitting fraud and thefts totalling more than £20,000.

Barbara Dearnley, 62, of Marshaw Road, Lancaster, admitted committing the offences over a four year period between July 2011 and May 2015 while she acted in a financial position for the Victoria Institute, Caton.

During an appearance before Lancaster Magistrates’ Court, she pleaded guilty to stealing £23,914 belonging to the institute and a further count of stealing cash over the same period.

She also admits dishonestly falsifying monthly treasurer reports that were required for an accounting purpose, and dishonestly falsifying the annual financial accounts.

The charitable organisation, which was founded in 1888, offers a range of rooms available to hire for community, private, and business events.

The offences are thought to have come to light shortly after Dearnley left her position and moved away.

Concerned volunteers noticed financial anomalies and contacted the police.

Rob Paine, who is on the board of trustees of the village institute, said: “It is very 
upsetting from our point of view - to find out someone you trusted has done this is devastating, especially for the volunteers.

“Because it was a smaller amount each month over a period of time, it was not detected for a long time. It was not a big chunk in one go.

“We would still be in a better position if we had the money, but fortunately we’ll survive without it.

“It’s not even about the money it’s the feeling you have - you are left with a very bad taste in the mouth.

“It’s been happening over such a long period it wasn’t a huge impact in one go.

“But as more and more details come out, a lot of people in the community will be very upset that all work they’ve done could have been affected by this.”

Dearnley is due to be sentenced at Preston Crown Court on Friday.