11:30am Saturday 12th February 2011
By Harry Hogger
A FORMER employee at a Dorset car firm has admitted stealing over £50,000 from the company in an act her boss has described as a ‘major betrayal’.
Joyce Britnell, aged 57, of Church Knap, Weymouth, pleaded guilty to a charge of theft of £52,597.70 from Lanehouse Service Station Ltd over six year period between July 2003 and July 2009.
Peter Avery is managing director of Lanehouse Service Station Ltd, which employs 50 staff across Vauxhall dealerships in Weymouth, Bridport and Dorchester as well as a Suzuki franchise in the county town.
He said Britnell worked in the accounts department of the company and when she resigned in July 2009, claiming she wanted to spend more time at home with an elderly parent, it came as a ‘complete surprise’ as she had been a ‘highly trusted employee’ since joining in April 2003.
Her role had included handling all receipts and payments on behalf of the company as well as controlling salary payments on a monthly basis.
Mr Avery said the fraud was uncovered during an annual audit of the company accounts.
He said: “In September 2009 Chris Rawlins, our company accountant, carried out a full analysis of one particular account covering 3,000 entries and uncovered a highly complex fraud that involved movements in our purchase, sales and nominal ledgers that could only have been carried out by Joyce, who was solely responsible for this area of the accounting process.”
Mr Avery said that Weymouth CID became involved in the case and he and Mr Rawlins spent several months analysing documents to uncover the full scale of his employee’s fraud. He said: “The aftermath of this matter has had both personal and economic implications.
On a personal level, Joyce was a highly regarded employee and the scale of this embezzlement over such a long period is a major betrayal of the trust that was placed upon her.
“She was also fully aware of the difficulties experienced within our industry and the impact of her fraudulent activity would have upon the company’s finances. She would have also been fully aware of the implications in terms of placing the livelihoods of me, my family and the staff and their families at great risk.”
When she appeared at Dorchester Crown Court Clifford Grier said the Crown Prosecution Service would consider confiscation proceedings against Britnell unless she returned to court for sentence with a cheque offering to repay the money she had stolen.
Nick Robinson, representing Britnell, said: “I have already taken instructions from Mrs Britnell and she is going to endeavour over the period of adjournment to obtain money in order to pay the losses to the employer.”
The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report and Britnell was released on bail to return to court to be sentenced on March 4.
Judge Roger Jarvis warned her: “You have admitted a very serious offence. It involves a significant sum of money and there is almost an inevitability of a prison sentence.”
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