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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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School backs Cumbrian teacher who stole £300 grant

A Carlisle school is standing by a chemistry teacher who stole a £300 grant that should have gone to one of her former pupils.

The city’s magistrates’ court heard how Carrie Ann Booth, 32, committed the offence at a time when she was struggling to manage personal debts, partly caused by paying for her wedding.

Shortly after the crime came to light the science teacher, who lives in Balfour Road, Raffles, Carlisle, left the school.

She is now working at the city’s Trinity School.

Confirming they were aware of the conviction, the school issued a statement about the case, telling the News & Star: “Mrs Booth is a very good teacher of science, including A-level chemistry, and a very good form tutor. We are pleased that this isolated incident, which she bitterly regrets, has now been dealt with.”

In court last week, Booth pleaded guilty to stealing the £300 and was given a 12-month conditional discharge, which means she will face no sanction provided she stays out of trouble for that period. She must also pay prosecution costs of £50, and a £15 victim surcharge.

The court was told that the theft was originally deemed by lawyers to be from Appleby Grammar School on July 1. But the defendant asked that the charge be amended so she was convicted of stealing money from the company which administered the grant involved on behalf of the O2 Think Big scheme. This was accepted by the judge.

Prosecutor Julie Hansel described how an Appleby Grammar pupil applied for a grant and Booth agreed to act as a supervisor.

Once formally approved, the £300 grant was sent for the child as a cash card, which was to be activated so the money could be withdrawn from a cash machine.

The pupil received the card but, rather than keep it and immediately withdraw the cash, asked Booth to look after it. Staff at the O2 Think Big office got in touch to ask how the grant had been spent.

The school’s headteacher Andrew Lund spoke to Booth and it was at this point that she admitted taking the cash, the court heard.

She later told police that she had money problems, and had used the money to pay for petrol and utility bills.

A background report by a probation officer confirmed that Booth, who had no previous convictions, had been motivated by her desire to clear her debts.

These were made worse because she and her husband paid for their own wedding, the court heard.

The defendant insisted she had not told her husband about her debts and had tried to manage them herself. Those debts are now under control and she was sorry for stealing the money, she said.

Passing sentence, Judge Ross described the Booth’s crime as an “act of stupidity”, which amounted to a breach of professional trust. He accepted that she was unlikely to commit any further offences.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Employers must review all applicants’ criminal records before making a decision about whether to allow them to work in a school. People who have committed the most serious crimes – as set out by the Disclosure and Barring Service – are automatically barred.”

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