A COCAINE-using grandmother stole more than £10,000 in social club funds to feed her habit.
Samantha Fowler abused her position of trust as treasurer of Yattendon and Frilsham Social Club to siphon off the cash.
On Tuesday, November 29, she sobbed as a judge sentenced her to prison but suspended the jail term because of her previous good character.
Victoria Gainza, prosecuting, said the club had been formed at the end of the Second World War and had nearly 100 members.
Its chairman, Eddie Scurr, said in a statement: “Without a bus service, there’s a real need for a social club.
“We’ve raised thousands of pounds for charity in the past.”
But the theft committed by Fowler, of Beechfield, Frilsham, had been financially devastating, he said, adding: “It’s a miracle we’ve been able to keep it open.”
Members had given time and effort to raise extra funds, the court heard, and Mr Scurr concluded: “We’re determined this act of selfishness won’t be the end of our club. It’s brought us closer together.”
Ms Gainza said: “Staff had to work on a voluntary basis and it took a great deal of effort to bring the club back from the brink. It has had a big impact on this tight-knit community.”
Fowler, a mother of three and a grandmother, admitted stealing £10,359.10 from the club between January 15 last year and February 16 this year.
Harper Marshall, defending, said her client had immediately admitted her guilt when challenged by club officials and had shown genuine remorse.
She said that Fowler had “self medicated” with cocaine to cope with a number of personal issues and had consequently developed a habit.
Ms Marshall said Fowler had already repaid much of the money, and continued to do so, although £4,650 remains outstanding.
She said the 49-year-old had “gone cold turkey” with the help of her husband, and added: “She came so close to losing everything and never wants to go back to that place again.”
Judge Henry John sentenced her to 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years and attached a rehabilitation activity requirement.
In addition Fowler was ordered to complete 100 hours’ unpaid work, to continue compensating the club and to pay £450 costs.