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Shropshire netball official must pay back just £250 after £40,000 fraud

By Dominic Robertson | Telford | Crime | Published:

A former netball official who stole tens of thousands of pounds from her organisation has been ordered to pay back £250.

A hearing at Shrewsbury Crown Court was told that Hannah O’Neill, 39, had benefitted by around £40,000 from her fraud while treasurer of Shrewsbury and District Netball Association.

However, because she had no funds, the court was only able to order her to pay back £250.

The hearing, which took place on Friday, was told that if O’Neill comes into substantial funds then the proceeds of crime proceedings could be revisited and she may be required to pay more.

O’Neill, who was a chartered accountant, was jailed for 20 months in October 2016 after admitting five specimen offences of fraud between 2011 and 2015.

The court was told that she had taken the cash while collecting club fees and paying bills over a five-year period.

The 2016 sentencing hearing was told that matters had come to light after the new treasurer, Karen Holliday, found there was a £2,500 deficit in the accounts.

Mr Philip Beardwell, who was prosecuting the case, said that members were informed and O’Neill had been approached and admitted taking the money and promised that she would pay it back.

However, further investigation of the organisation’s bank statements and an audit revealed that about £10,000 could not be accounted for from the previous financial year.

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It was discovered that the defendant had stolen a similar amount of money in each of the previous years by transferring cash into her own account.

The court heard that O’Neill had been the netball league’s treasurer for a decade and during that time had full control over the bank account.

In interviews she said she had initially taken money to pay her tax bill and had intended to pay the money back.

Handing down the sentence Judge Peter Barrie said that anyone in a professional position who was entrusted with other people’s money and breached that trust must expect to go to prison.

Miss Sarah Cooper, for O’Neill, of Station Road, Donnington at the time of the sentencing, said her client was sorry for her actions and had lost her career as an accountant following her conviction. She said O’Neill had both gambling and alcohol addictions.

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