How a question over a £29 bill uncovered Jarrow man's £14,000 charity theft
A charity finance director who pocketed £14,000 by using company funds as his "private bank" has been spared jail.
Peter Hart used "considerable stealth" to conceal the dishonest withdrawals of cash belonging to St Cuthberts Care, a regionwide charity that aims to improve the lives of vulnerable people in the community.
Newcastle Crown Court heard his crimes were exposed after a £29 querie with the accounts sparked a wider investigation.
The court heard the charity bosses said the 46-year-old's crimes caused feelings of "betrayal and devastation" at the company, where Hart had worked for almost three decades.
Hart, of Luss Avenue, Jarrow, who has never been in trouble before, admitted theft and fraud between April last year and March this year.
Mr Recorder John Bate-Williams sentenced him to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with programme requirements, 150 hours unpaid work and £350 costs.
The judge said Hart had provided good service until he "fell into a pit of dishonesty" and told him: "This was, and I know you now recognise, disgraceful, dishonest, conduct over a significant period of time, in very clear breach of the trust placed in you as the finance director by the charity.
"The way you stole the money involved a pattern of actions using considerable stealth."
The judge added: "For nine to ten months you treated your employer's finances as a private bank."
Christopher Morrison, defending, said Hart resigned as soon as the truth was revealed and has managed to raise enough funds to pay all of the money back to the charity.
Mr Morrison said: "The first thing I am instructed to say on behalf of Mr Hart is that he is sorry."
He said Hart is a "good man who has done a bad thing" and added: "He worked for that charity for almost three decades without any qualm whatsoever".
Mr Morrison said the offences happened after Hart took time off work, which was unpaid, due to depression and were "substantially out of character".