Parish clerk accused of £28k fraud was 'struggling with debt', court hears

Bucks Free Press: Parish clerk accused of £28k fraud was 'struggling with debt', court hears Parish clerk accused of £28k fraud was 'struggling with debt', court hears

A COURT heard a parish clerk accused of fraud amounting to £28,000 was struggling with debt.

Lynne Turner, 50, of Tancred Road, High Wycombe, appeared at Oxford Crown Court yesterday for the start of the trial into ten counts of fraud.

She pleaded not guilty at the end of last year to the alleged fraud which was said to have taken place between August 2010 and May 2011, while she was employed at Hughenden Parish Council.

She worked at the parish council for 17 years and resigned in June 2011. Prosecuting Gavin Holme said money from the HSBC current account of Hughenden Parish Council was transferred into the personal account she shared with her husband, Paul Turner.

In an interview with police Mrs Turner said from January 2010 she had got herself into a bit of financial trouble and hadn't told her husband, the prosecution said.

However, she also told police that she did not understand how the transfers had happened and had not made them on purpose, added Mr Holme.

The court heard when Charlotte Watts started in September 2011 as replacement for Mrs Turner she discovered £21,900 had been paid out, in smaller amounts, from the council's current account, which is used to pay bills and staff salaries.

On the council's RBS software payment processing system this was marked as "cash in transit."

The witness, Miss Watts, told the court she noticed the amount when she was being trained in the RBS software, and neither she nor the trainer could work out what it was.

Miss Watts said she spoke on the phone to Mrs Turner, who had been in charge of the council's finance when she was clerk. Mrs Turner said it was a bank error and to clear it, she said.

She then said she noticed that six different payments of £1,000 had been paid out of the current account and had been marked as "correction."

Mrs Watts said she then questioned Mrs Turner over email, who said she would like to come into the office as she is more of a "visual person" and try and work it out.

Then Mrs Watts called the council's bank, HSBC, to ask which account number the transfers had been made to. After getting this information she worked out that it was the account of Paul Turner and Lynne Turner so she then called the police.

Mr Holme said in his opening statement that in Mrs Turner's first interview with the police she said she was in debt at that period of time and had a number of loans. She said she was also helping her son who was causing a considerable cost to her.

She said from January 2010 she had got herself into a bit of trouble and hadn't told her husband and she said she worked for Hughenden Parish Council but in the last 18 months her memory had really gone.

She described a scheme called Rural Affordable Housing that had caused a lot of upset in the local area leading to press and websites being set up and personal pressure being brought upon her. She said there had been elections for a new parish council and she did not get on well with the new group of councillors.

In a second interview Mrs Turner told the police she did not know how the transfers into her bank account had taken place but she did not do it on purpose.

She said she could not understand why it had happened. She continued to say it was probably a mistake.

Mr Holme said just looking at the bank statement of Paul Turner and Lynne Turner you can see the state of her financial position with a payment of almost £500 from wonga.com in August 2010, which is short term loan facility, and also £100 from Pounds Till Payday.

Defence, Dee Connelly, said to Mrs Watts that Mrs Turner had told her in the first phone call that she had spoken to RBS about the £21,900 and had meant to follow it up but had not got around to it.

She said Mrs Turner never said to her you need to clear the account. The trial continues today.

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