Suspended prison sentence for disgraced town clerk

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

The disgraced former clerk of Padiham Town Council has been handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting fraudulently paying herself more money than she was entitled.

Elizabeth Bolton (59) wept in the dock at Burnley Crown Court when Judge Jonathan Gibson gave her a prison sentence of 10 months, suspended for two years, as punishment for her breach of trust.

The former Burnley Borough Council solicitor, of Palace Gardens, Padiham Road, Burnley, must also observe a home curfew from 9pm to 7am for 22 weeks, must attend the Lancashire Women’s Specified Activity Requirement, and pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs.

During her time as clerk of the town council, Bolton was one of only two paid employees, the other post being a caretaker, and was responsible for the paying of salaries.

Mr Hugh McKee (prosecuting) told the court that Bolton had been appointed in 2002, but her fraudulent activity began in 2007 when her hours were increased to 22 hours per week.

He said: “Bolton was one of only two paid employees in what was a very small organisation. She was given a considerable degree of autonomy. She was responsible for arranging wages.

“Bolton arranged for herself to be paid gross of £28,000 per year. To disguise this, as year end approached, she transferred money from one of the council’s charitable accounts into its main account.

“She would then reverse that payment by repaying the charitable fund from the main account. That left a net shortfall of £11,696.”

Mr McKee told the court that the shortfall was spotted during an audit.

He said she initially denied responsibility during police interviews, claiming one of the councillors could have been responsible.

Miss Katherine Pierpoint (defending) revealed that Bolton had suffered with mental health problems following the birth of her two children and also had a problem with alcohol. She has now started cognitive behaviour therapy.

Bolton had left the Methodist Church she worshipped at after concerns were raised. She now attends another Methodist church in the area.

A spokesman for Padiham Town Council said: “Padiham Town Council had closure of this case around two years ago when Elizabeth Bolton resigned and paid back all monies owed to the council.

“This was then pursued by the police as a criminal investigation, and has now reached its conclusion. The town council would like to publicly thank our line manager who worked relentlessly spending hundreds of unpaid man hours bringing this first to light and then providing help to the police to bring this to closure.”