Durham market boss pocketed traders’ rents

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A MARKET manager breached the trust of bosses and colleagues as she banked thousands of pounds in traders’ rent into her own account.

Joanne Price behaved “disgracefully” by stealing money belonging to Durham Markets Company, Durham Crown Court heard.

But the 38-year-old, who has no financial troubles and was in the job for 10 years, is still unable to explain where the cash went or why she took it.

In May last year, Price was supposed to put £7,824 into the firm’s accounts, but instead put £5,000 into her own.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said an accountant noticed the missing cash. It was first thought Barclays had made an error.

When a lump sum was found in Price’s own accounts, she told police it had been given to her by her grandmother, as she was buying a house.

But Hilda Porter told officers she never gave her granddaughter such a figure and a search of Price’s home uncovered another £900 in cash.

When questioned again, she continued to deny wrongdoing and said the £5,000 was savings.

In addition to stealing the large amount, she was charged with theft of £75, committed while she was on bail and allowed to return to her post.

She collected rent from outdoor stall holders on Saturday in late November, but put a note in the book stating it had been cancelled due to bad weather.

It was found traders had been given receipts for their rent paid for that day by Price.

She entered guilty pleas to two charges of theft on the first day of her trial, with five others to lie on file.

The court was told if the trial had gone ahead, she would have blamed colleagues for the losses.

Mr Towers said: “Theft from an employer is not a victimless crime and the consequence on other members of staff in a very small team was a strain put on them and the finger of suspicion being put on them until she admitted this matter.”

Yvonne Taylor, mitigating, said Price was a “very confused lady” with no income or assets and was supported by her partner, who owns the house, and father.

Judge Guy Whitburn said he believed she had assets and ordered her to pay back a total of £7,899, plus £1,200 in court costs, within 12 months.

He sentenced Price to six months in custody, suspended for two years with supervision.

He said: “You behaved disgracefully towards those you worked with and to the company that trusted you.

“You were clearly in no financial difficulties and you had a good wage, you have no children to support and you live with your partner.

“You know where that money went, and only you know.”

The company’s managing director Colin Wilkes, was at court to see Price, of Newhouse Road, Esh Winning, sentenced. He said he was disappointed by her actions, but looking forward to moving on.