Coronavirus: Ivybridge fraudulent accountant avoids jail due to pandemic

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Exeter Central LibraryImage source, Google
Image caption,
Kim Bruce, 53, stole from Libraries Unlimited, a charity delivering library services, based at Exeter's Central Library

An accountant who stole from two charities that she had worked for has avoided jail "by the skin of her teeth" because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Kim Bruce, 53, of Deer Park, Ivybridge, stole nearly £50,000 while working at Westcountry Rivers Trust and Exeter-based Libraries Unlimited.

Bruce admitted five fraud charges at Exeter Crown Court and was ordered to carry out unpaid community work.

Judge David Evans said she was "thoroughly dishonest".

He ordered her to do 210 hours of unpaid community work and 20 days of rehabilitation activities.

Bruce stole sums of £1,908 and £1,663 from the Rivers Trust between July 2017 and May 2018, the court heard.

After moving to Libraries Unlimited, she stole increasing sums of money including £4,688 in January 2019, £12,178 on 11 March and a final sum of £26,659 on 25 March.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Westcountry Rivers Trust was founded in 1994 by a group including poet laureate Ted Hughes

The judge quoted a recent case in which the Lord Chief Justice had urged judges only to send people to prison during the Covid emergency if it was absolutely unavoidable.

He told Bruce she had escaped an immediate jail sentence "by the skin of her teeth" and because of the crisis.

"You abused a position of trust and responsibility in each organisation.

"Having been unmasked the first time, you went on to repeat your behaviour with the second organisation. It had a considerable effect on both charities which went beyond the financial loss."

A Proceeds of Crime Act investigation to recover the money is also under way.

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