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Treasurer must pay back stolen cash

PUBLISHED: 22:00 12 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:11 03 March 2010

A CROOKED treasurer once responsible for the finances of a top Suffolk school has escaped jail after stealing more than £2,000 from social club.

But former Woodbridge School accountant and Tory treasurer Robert Hetherington must pay back the money he stole from the British Legion.

A CROOKED treasurer once responsible for the finances of a top Suffolk school has escaped jail after stealing more than £2,000 from social club.

But former Woodbridge School accountant and Tory treasurer Robert Hetherington must pay back the money he stole from the British Legion.

Hetherington, from Kerry Avenue, Ipswich, also faces a year-long community rehabilitation order, including sessions with a debt counsellor.

After his sentencing at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court, 69-year-old Hetherington, said: "It's a relief not to be going to prison but I will have to try to pay the money back somehow. I know I did wrong."

He had pleaded guilty to theft at an earlier court hearing.

Yesterday the court heard how the father-of two stole one or two weekly bags of money from the Wickham Market British Legion in order to pay household bills and debts, including credit card debts, amounting to £3,300.

After the trial he said: "I bought tapes and books. But I am not a shopaholic."

His sister, who supported him in court, added: "He must learn not to spend more than you've got. Our mum always taught us that."

The court heard how Hetherington, who admitted the thefts between January and March this year, had faced financial difficulties since his divorce.

He married his current wife Doreen in 1999 but the pair found it difficult to survive on a weekly pension of £200.

Howard Catherell, for Hetherington, said: "He has previously been of impeccable character.

"He has found the whole court process very distressing and shameful. He is virtually housebound."

Hetherington worked as an accountant from 1948 to 1973 and had taken time off in the fifties for national service where he became a sergeant in the Pay Corps.

He later worked as the accountant for Woodbridge School and then the treasurer for Westgate Ward Conservative Club.

Sentencing Hetherington to a year's community rehabilitation order bench chairman David Coe, said: "It is a serious offence but it is one for which a community sentence is the most suitable way of dealing with it."

Hetherington was also ordered to pay the £2002.39 back to the British Legion in £50 monthly instalments.

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