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Space Centre fraudster Fiona Barnes to pay back just £1

Posted on - 16th May, 2017 - 6:44pm | Author - | Posted in - Ashton-on-Ribble, Charities, Crime, News, Tulketh
Fiona Barnes pictured at her leaving do
Fiona Barnes pictured at her leaving do

A fundraiser who stole £24,713 from a disabled children’s charity she worked for has been ordered to pay back just £1 of the money she stole.

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Fiona Barnes, 55, was jailed for 15 months after she admitted using her position as fundraiser at The SPACE Centre to steal from the charity’s funds.

Staff at The SPACE Centre in Preston, Lancs, said the Proceeds of Crime ruling was “outrageous” and “an insult to the people she stole from.”

When her crime came to light, Barnes, of Dunblane, Scotland, was so desperate to avoid jail she even claimed she was dying of cancer in a bid to evade justice.

But during a hearing on Tuesday (16 May) a judge found university educated Barnes has no money to her name and ordered her to pay back just £1.

Speaking after the hearing, Jane Robinson, The SPACE Centre’s deputy manager, said: “It is a complete insult. I’d rather she didn’t pay anything than she pays £1.

“After what she did, it just seems outrageous.

“We worked with her for two years and considered her a friend and a well respected colleague. For her to have done that to us was devastating, personally and professionally.

“She nearly ruined us. She met the centre users – children and adults with special needs and to still go and steal all that money from them. It was just awful.

“Now for her to pay back £1 almost puts a price on what she has done.”

The Space Centre in Ashton-on-Ribble Pic: Paul Melling
The Space Centre in Ashton-on-Ribble Pic: Paul Melling

Barnes was jailed in September last year, after she admitted she had used her position as fundraiser to steal from the charity.

Barnes’ years of deceit

When the thefts came to light, Barnes lied about her health – even going as far as producing fake medical notes claiming she was receiving palliative care for stage four bowel cancer.

The fundraiser, from Dunblane, Scotland, has already served a prison sentence for committing an almost identical offence when she stole £30,000 from her employers Social Enterprise Clydebank (SEC) in Scotland.

But within months of leaving her position, she took the job of project manager at the SPACE Centre, a charity which provides sensory play equipment for children with autism and special needs in Preston, Lancs – giving her name as Fiona Raven.

Read more: Preston insurance fraud gang snared after UK-wide investigation

Between November 2010 and July 2012, Barnes, of Dunblane, Scotland, stole £24,730 from the charity, using invoices from contractors to pay large sums into her own bank account.

One invoice, from architects Cassidy and Ashton, proved to be entirely fraudulent, but was used by Barnes to write herself a cheque for £11,550.

Other cheques were found to have forged signatures and their stubs made out to contractors – who never received the money.

Barnes pleaded guilty to theft and perverting the course of justice and appeared at Preston Crown Court on September 22 2016, where she was jailed for 15 months.

The ruling

Today, in a Proceeds of Crime hearing at Preston Crown Court, Judge Robert Altham recorded Barnes’ available assets as nil, and ruled she must make a nominal payment of £1 within the next seven days.

In September 2013, Barnes was bailed to appear at Preston Magistrates’ Court, but claimed she was suffering from stage four bowel cancer and was too ill to travel to court.

She even produced false medical notes, which stated she was receiving palliative care and chemotherapy. Her illness was later found to be a lie, and Barnes was charged with perverting the course of justice.

Sentencing Barnes in September, Recorder David Potter, said: “You left the centre’s employ in September 2012. The effect that your theft has had on the SPACE Centre can not be understated.

“Those who had employed you, those who had engaged you, those who trusted you, day after day, felt and continue to feel utterly devastated by your rank dishonesty in stealing from that company time and time again.

“When you were arrested by the police in this country in relation to these matters you were then summoned to court.

“Your dishonesty in relation to the theft from Space is compounded by your then deliberate attempt to pervert the course of justice.

“You submitted a number of false and doctored letters purporting to be from your medical examiners that suggest you were suffering from stage four cancer; that you were desperately ill, in fact even terminally ill.

“All that was done quite deliberately in order to persuade the authorities in this country to take no action.

“You are a university educated, intelligent woman and a conniving con artist.

“The managers of Space were completely taken in and you abused their trust in a significant way.”

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