THESE two heartless thieves pillaged a junior football team’s accounts, leaving them with just 30p.
The pair, who also stole money raised for a children’s cancer charity, have been labelled Sunderland’s “most unpopular couple”.
Debra Clark, 36, and Carl Hunter, 39, who ran South Hylton Junior Football Club, escaped jail with suspended prison sentences yesterday.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Clark, who was treasurer, helped herself to almost £5,500 of the club’s cash while Hunter, who was manager and coach, fiddled the books to hide her actions.
More than £590 of the stolen cash had been raised by members to donate to children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.
The pair, of Shakespeare Street, Southwick, were collared when suspicious parents asked why they were being asked to hand over £20 for new strips.
They said the club’s accounts should have contained cash from sponsors, grants and a £1,800 fund-raising event at the Stadium of Light.
Prosecutor Emma Dowling said: “It transpired there was 30p left in the football club bank account.”
The court heard Hunter had continued applying for grants for the club, knowing full well the cash would never make it into the account.
After confrontations with angry parents, cancer survivor Clark, who has never been in trouble before, handed herself into police and confessed.
In an interview, Hunter, who has previous convictions for dishonesty, said he was unaware Clark had been taking money initially but amended the books once he realised.
Judge David Wood said they deserved to go to jail but sentenced the couple, who admitted theft, to nine months behind bars, suspended for 12 months, with supervision and a six month night time curfew.
He said: “You both deserve to go to prison but the real losers would be your children if you did and the victims of your crime would not get paid back.
“A high degree of trust was being placed in both of you to look after the club’s money.
“I am sure the money came from a number of parents in the area, some of whom would have had limited means just like yourselves.
“They trusted you to keep their money safe, instead you borrowed it then when you could not pay it back you stole it.
“Frankly, if you are the most unpopular couple in Sunderland at the moment you only have yourselves to blame.”
Lee Fish, defending Clark, said the mum-of-two’s children, who are in poor health, was recovering from thyroid cancer and post natal depression when she took the cash and bitterly regrets what she has done.
Susan Hirst added Hunter acted out of “misguided loyalty” when he realised his partner had been taking the club’s money.
They were ordered to pay back the cash.
Parents of team members today hit out at the couple.
Mums Joanne Reed and Emma Collins took in upon themselves to try and keep the team going despite the financial strife they had been left in.
Joanne said: “When we first found out about it we were all shocked, upset and angry.
“It was always going to be the children that suffered by this and that’s the horrible part. We were determined not to let this happen so we took over.”
The club, which now goes under the name of Northeast Sports Allstars, is still running and attracts scores of under-9s.