Finance Manager sentenced for stealing over £180K from Keswick School
A 52-year-old woman has today been sentenced to 32 months' imprisonment for stealing over £188,000 from Keswick School.
Ghislain Smithson was employed as a Finance Manager at Keswick School between 2008 until 2018, when she left to take up another financial position.
The offences came to light in March 2019, following her departure, when another Finance Officer conducted an audit of the school bank accounts and supplier details. There were fake invoices from a firm called ‘Smiths' which had the bank details for Smithson's personal bank account. One school invoice was in fact paid to a travel firm; Smithson had booked a £4,700 holiday for two to Antigua for ten days in November 2017.
Smithson had also used the school credit card to order items from Amazon and to book other holidays and purchase £30,000 of foreign currency.
As a security measure, the school's policy was that dual signatures were required for all transactions, however, Smithson had authorised payments using her signature alone, taking advantage of a fault in the banking software program.
Gerard Rogerson, for the CPS, said: Ghislain Smithson diverted money away from the school and the pupils in order to fund her own lifestyle, including foreign holidays and luxury items she could not legitimately afford.
"She faked invoices with bogus telephone numbers and VAT numbers from companies which no longer existed. She committed the offences over a number of years and even though this case is now concluded, the repercussions of her selfish actions will continue to affect the school for years to come."
"We worked closely with the police and the school to build a strong case against her, and when faced with the overwhelming evidence against her; she was left with no other option than to enter a guilty plea."
The current headmaster for the school, Mr. Simon Jackson, in his victim personal statement said: "All persons and members of staff are trusted to act professionally in the best interest of the children and of the school at all times, it is therefore extremely disappointing and sad that a trusted member of staff who appeared highly professional appears to have taken actions to the detriment of the children and the good running of the school".
Notes to editors
- Gerard Rogerson is a Crown Advocate for CPS North West
- Ghislain Smithson pleaded guilty to one count of theft.