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Nursery boss stole PS21k from parents.

Byline: NEIL DOCKING ECHO reporter neil.docking@trinitymirror.com @LIVECHOCOURT

A NURSERY manager threatened the future of a Wirral family business by helping herself to PS21,000 in children's fees.

Marie Astbury, 48, pocketed the cash payments of parents at the Busy Nought to Fives Nursery.

When confronted by her employers, the mum-of-three said she did not know why she stole the money, as "she didn't need it".

But Liverpool Crown Court heard that she confessed to taking "any available cash that had come through the office".

William Beardmore, prosecuting, said James and Emma Collins ran six nurseries in the North West, with headquarters above the Heswall nursery. Astbury became its manager in 2011 and was initially "excellent", but by January 2015, "her standards of work had slipped". She was spoken to about the issue and in April took sick leave, during which a temporary manager discovered her theft.

Astbury admitted taking money from January 2014 to March 2015 and later accepted that she had stolen cash as early as June 2013.

However, she disputed the exact figure, leading to a long delay in the case as children's records had to be checked.

Mrs Collins told the court that Astbury had taken advantage of their good nature as supportive employers.

The victim said: "She was stealing from right in front of us and was happy to do so. She has caused a considerable amount of upset and stress to everybody involved in this matter."

The court heard the Collins family had to take out loans to support the business as a result of the loss.

Astbury, of Burrell Drive, Greasby, who has no previous convictions, admitted two offences of theft.

Hayley Cooper, defending, said the grandmother had borrowed PS1,000 from her family to start paying back the Collinses. She said Astbury had taken out a loan to start a new business, setting up a shop in Moreton, and urged the judge to spare her jail.

Ms Cooper said Astbury was suffering from stress at the time, felt "under a great deal of pressure" and was diagnosed with depression. She said: "What she describes is that medication numbing her intentions to everything."

Ms Cooper said it was "clearly not the case" that Astbury did not need the money, as she had a number of loans.

She added: "This isn't a defendant who has been living a lavish lifestyle."

Judge Robert Trevor Jones said Astbury breached the high degree of trust placed in her by "sustained thieving".

He said he did not accept that Astbury was under any real financial pressure, adding: "There was no pressing need to act as you did."

He said she was "immensely shamefaced", but the stress and difficulties placed on the Collins should not be overlooked.

He handed her 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, plus 200 hours of unpaid work.

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Marie Astbury leaves Liverpool Crown Court

Marie Astbury leaves Liverpool Crown Court

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2016
Words:491
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