Former council employee found guilty of deception

A Merton council employee pleaded guilty to deceptively obtaining £6,000 from the council at Kingston Crown Court last week. Former Merton employee Emma Richards received a two year Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Order, with conditions to attend 31 sessions of an accredited women’s programme and undertake 40 hours of unpaid work in the community.

The fraud came to light as a result of a member of staff’s vigilance concerning a petty cash reimbursement made by Miss Richards and following an investigation by Internal Audit. It was found that duplicate claims had been made for travel and other expenditure had been claimed for expenses not incurred. Miss Richards had also forged her manager’s signature on the petty cash claims.

Miss Richards was a manager in the Merton Youth Offending Team within the Council’s Environment and Regeneration Department. This team aims to prevent youth’s re-offending, through multi-agency partnership working. She resigned from her post immediately following her suspension from duties in July 2005.

The judge stated that Miss Richards’s actions had been a breach of trust. The sentence given reflected the fact that she had pleaded guilty and had repaid the amount stolen.

Chris Johnson, Head of Audit & Support for Merton Council explained why the Council had taken the matter to court.

‘Merton Council has a zero tolerance on fraud committed by employees and always considers prosecution as detailed in our anti-fraud policy.’