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Ipswich swim school finance manager jailed for stealing £32,000

PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:11 03 August 2019

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: ARCHANT

The owner of a Suffolk swimming school whose business was almost brought to its knees after its finance manager stole more than £32,000 has described her feelings of "utter betrayal".

Speaking after 54-year-old Julie Jenkins was jailed for 28 months, Gillian Dovey who runs First Strokes Swim Schools and Oakland Hall Day Nursery with her husband Alastair described her former employee as having a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality.

She said Jenkins had offered her (Mrs Dovey's) children sweets and cuddles when they visited the office while stealing thousands of pounds from the company.

Mrs Dovey said the business had been forced to freeze staff pay and increase its overdraft to keep going and she felt "utterly betrayed" by Jenkins' dishonesty.

She said that although at one stage she feared they wouldn't be able to find enough money to keep the business going it was now back on track and growing.

"The situation is now very positive," she added.

Jenkins, of Ransome Crescent, admitted abusing a position of trust and disguising criminal property.

Sentencing her Judge David Pugh said that during the period of the theft Jenkins had kept horses and driven expensive cars.

He said in addition to stealing more than £32,000 she had failed to carry out her duties in relation to pension and VAT payments resulting in the company incurring penalties of £50,000.

"The effect on the company and its cash flow has been deeply concerning to those who work within the company," said the judge.

An earlier hearing heard that Jenkins deposited more than £32,000 into her own bank account while she was employed as finance manager for Ipswich-based First Strokes which had grown since being established in 2001 to offering weekly swimming tuition to almost 6,000 children at six different sites.

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Jenkins started working for the business in February 2016 and handed in her notice two years later after which it was discovered VAT and pension contributions hadn't been paid.

The court heard that Jenkins had made 57 unauthorised payments totalling £32,145 into her own account and had disguised them in the company's computer accounting system.

Jenkins told police she had stolen the money to "keep the wolf from the door" and was sorry.

Neil Saunders, for Jenkins, said she had no previous convictions and accepted a prison sentence was inevitable.

"She bitterly regrets what she has done and the knock-on effects it has had," he said.

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