Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Monday, July 7, 2014
A woman who admitted stealing more than £29,000 from her employer “failed to resist the temptation” when money was mistakenly paid into her account while she was on unpaid leave, a court has heard.
Tonya Howe, stole £29,058.75 from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) between 2011 and 2012.
Howe, 28, of Hall Lane, Crostwick, near Spixworth, appeared at Norwich Crown Court on Friday to be sentenced after previously admitting theft.
The mother of two had applied for unpaid carers leave, but there was an error by the DWP who continued to pay Howe while she was on unpaid leave.
The defendant later realised the mistake had been made, but accepted she continued to let the money go into her account.
Sentencing Howe to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years, Recorder Mark Dennis said: “It’s a large amount of money over a significant period of time.”
He said Howe was “intelligent enough to appreciate the seriousness of the offence” and might expect a custodial sentence to be imposed.
But he added: “I accept this was a case of temptation presenting itself to you rather than you attempting to steal or otherwise be fraudulent from the outset.”
Howe was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and given 12 months supervision.
Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said when she was interviewed by police, Howe said she did not think a big company like DWP would make such a mistake.
She said in hindsight she should have made more effort to contact the company.
Michael Clare, mitigating, said Howe, who is paying back the money, deserved full credit for her plea.
He said the theft was not fraudulent from the outset as it was “something she didn’t even ask to happen”.
Mr Clare said: “It was something that was thrust upon her.”
At the time of the offence she was in the “midst of a fairly traumatic separation” with two young children, Mr Clare said. She had been paid maternity pay but then had no money before being paid in error by the DWP.
He added: “She failed to resist the temptation and kept it.”
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