Former Great Yarmouth mayor sentenced on forgery charges
Christine CunninghamA disgraced former Great Yarmouth mayor was given a suspended nine month jail sentence after he admitted a string forgery charges involving forging his ex-wife's signature so he could cash cheques from her bank account, a court heard yesterdayFormer Yarmouth borough councillor Jonathan Russell, 42, pleaded guilty to a number of forgery charges dating from 2002 to 2007, and among the cheques he forged was one to give �350 to a woman he had an affair with after his marriage broke down, Norwich Crown Court heard.Christine Cunningham
A disgraced former Great Yarmouth mayor was given a suspended nine month jail sentence after he admitted a string forgery charges involving forging his ex-wife's signature so he could cash cheques from her bank account, a court heard yesterday
Former Yarmouth borough councillor Jonathan Russell, 42, pleaded guilty to a number of forgery charges dating from 2002 to 2007, and among the cheques he forged was one to give �350 to a woman he had an affair with after his marriage broke down, Norwich Crown Court heard.
He also cashed forged cheques at the Gorleston Conservative Club and used a forged cheque for a �410 charity football bid as well as using a cheque to pay for him and his wife to go to a dinner dance.
Norwich Crown Court heard that Russell's wife Tina, was shocked when she found in April 2007 that her bank account was overdrawn and discovered Russell had been writing cheques in her name.
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Jude Durr, prosecuting, said that police were not called in to investigate at that time but after the couple separated police were contacted and investigations revealed that cheques to the value of �3789 had been forged in his ex-wife's name.
Mr Durr said that Russell, who claimed he was trying to juggle the couple's debt problems, had been unable to use his own account so he had been using his wife's bank account instead, paying in regular sums of cash.
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This is the second time that Russell, of Salisbury Road, Yarmouth, has appeared in court charged with forgery. In 2005 he was given a 200-hour community service order and ordered to pay �2261 costs after he was convicted of passing a forged letter to try to help his in-laws sell their property.
On that occasion Russell, who was mayor at the time, passed on a letter to an estate agent claiming outline plans had been submitted for Gorleston Trading Depot in Baker Street, which was owned by his in-laws at the time.
At that time the judge said that Russell had betrayed the trust of those who had elected him and brought disgrace to the office of mayor.
Yesterday Judge Paul Downes imposed a nine month jail term suspended for 18 months and ordered him to pay �3789 back to his ex-wife.
He was also ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work and said it was a 'complicated picture' but said: 'You did use her money without asking her - even if some of it was for her benefit.'
Simon Gladwell, for Russell said: 'This is a strange case.'
He said the forging of his wife signature was not for personal gain but to juggle their debts: 'It was not for personal gain but was done in order for Mr Russell to struggle to cope with the debt that he and his wife were both in.'
He said his wife suffered from depression and said Russell took over looking after all the finances.
He said because of his own financial position he was unable to write cheques from his own account so he had used his wife's account and had also paid cash into her account.
He said that Russell had now got a job in London earning �42,000 a year and he had taken on all the debts.
'Their divorce has gone through in July last year and he has taken on all the family debts and has agreed to give her half of his pension.'
Russell joined the borough council in 1994, representing Gorleston, and during the 11 years he served as a Conservative councillor he stood on a number of committees.