The treasurer of a pre-school play group who stole thousands of pounds from the organisation has been jailed for eight months at Lincoln Crown Court.
Andrew Rivett, who was an accountancy worker in his day job, began stealing within a short time of being appointed to his position at Tydd St Mary.
He took almost £5,000 but when the money was discovered missing he offered to repay the amount in full.
The court heard that the matter was due to be dealt with by restorative justice and no charge was to have been brought provided Rivett paid back the money in full.
But he ended up in court after returning only £600 to the group.
Rivett (45), of Station Road, Tydd Gote, had previously pleaded guilty to theft of cash.
Judge Simon Hirst ordered that available assets of £4,205 should be confiscated from him and paid to the play group as compensation. The money was ordered to be paid back within three months or Rivett will face an extra four months in jail.
The judge, passing sentence, told Rivett: “You became treasurer because you volunteered to do it and because you worked for a firm of accountants. The other members of the committee and the parents of the children must have felt enormous relief and gratitude that you, as someone with a financial background, were going to look after their financial affairs.
“They thought that they could get on with providing as good a pre-school for those children as possible and they could forget about money.
“As a result of what you did the consequences were very serious and almost fatal to the pre-school group. There was enormous worry among members of staff and parents about the school closing.
“It must be an immediate custodial sentence.”
Noel Philo, prosecuting, said the theft was discovered in November 2015 when the committee members discovered that the organisation’s reserve account contained just £50 when it should have had several thousand pounds in it.
Mr Philo said: “Shortly before the theft was discovered he told the committee he could not provide accounts because of computer difficulties.
“Over the period when he was treasurer he stole £4,805.”
Mr Philo said Rivett was given pre-signed cheques which he used to pay money into his own bank account and to obtain cash.
“This was breach of a high degree of trust. To some extent there was significant planning. It was a quite sophisticated theft which was covered up for a long time.
“It was no more than two months after he took the position that he started taking money and diverting funds in this way.”
Mr Philo said the finances of the pre-school group were badly affected. Staff had their pay cut and the fees for the children went up. A large amount of fundraising also took place to cover the losses.
Neil Sands, in mitigation, said Rivett is now unemployed after quitting his job as a result of his conviction.
Mr Sands said that Rivett had no previous convictions and in the past had served in the armed forces.
“He found himself in very difficult financial circumstances.
“He kept his family problems to himself as these problems and debts mounted up.
“He found himself not able to keep up with the costs of day to day living. He simply could not earn enough to meet the bills of the family.
“There were no extravagant holidays or expensive cars tucked away. He was simply trying to meet the normal daily bills.”