Sheriff orders financial review on embezzler 20/7/12
A sheriff has ordered a report about the finances and assets of an embezzler who
stole £22,000 from a community charity.
Karen Spruce formerly of Wick but now of Mill Street, Stornoway, swindled the Wick
Town Improvements Association (WTIA) over a number of years.
The Wick Gala raises local funds from a week-long festival of local family and entertainment
events each summer. Its proceeds are ploughed back into the community support local
good causes and are invested in amenities.
The WTIA was plunged into financial ruin as a result and is waiting for the money
to be repaid before being wound up. A new body, the Wick Gala Committee, set up to
take over the event is being pressed by Highland Council for an “inherited” debt.
Spruce, 57, who relocated to the Western Isles during the criminal prosecution, avoided
jail by promising to return the stolen money when she was originally sentenced for
the theft at Wick Sheriff Court in June 2010.
Spruce had pleaded guilty to stealing the money over three years, between April 2005
and June 2008. She was placed on probation to include 240 hours of unpaid work.
She had promised to pay back the outstanding £9500 within 18 months. But about two
months before that deadline it transpired that she had only raised £400. She received
an extension at Stornoway Sheriff Court last October.
Spruce still has a significant amount of cash to pay back and at a review of her
case yesterday, Sheriff David Sutherland, sitting in Stornoway Sheriff Court, sought
a full and clear appraisal of her income and assets including those of her long term
He told her solicitor Kevin Macpherson he wanted “to look at the financial assets
of her and her partner.”
The sheriff also sought an updated probation officer’s report for when the case returns
to the Stornoway court in September.
Spruce was ordained to appear in person at the September hearing.
She was not in court yesterday and had been excused because she is presently working
on the mainland.
Yesterday’s hearing was sparked by a letter received by the sheriff from a member
of the public when earlier reviewing the case in April.
At the time he had just read a probation officer’s report which highlighted Spruce
was obeying her probation conditions and was making good progress in paying back
the missing money.
Her lawyer had accepted the one-page letter appeared to "run contrary to the social
work report” and the sheriff ordered yesterday’s review.
Spruce previously lived in Caithness and had volunteered to be treasurer of the gala
After relocating to Lewis, she got a job as a classroom assistant in a small rural
primary school in South Lochs. She was dismissed by Western Isles Council when her
offences came to light.