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Bursar Susan Ashworth who stole £140,000 from church school warned she faces jail

She stole the money from Baxenden St John's over a five-year period

Susan Ashworth, 57

A bursar who stole around £140,000 while working at a Church of England primary school has been warned she faces a jail sentence.

Susan Margaret Ashworth stole the money from Baxenden St John’s CE school over a period of more than five years between January 2011 and August 2016.

The 57-year-old pleaded guilty at Burnley Crown Court to the charge of theft worth £142,545.73, and also to a charge of converting criminal property in the same amount.

The judge described the “very substantial” theft from the Church Avenue school as a breach of trust.

The court heard that the exact figure could be contested depending on the result of a forensic accountant report.

Timothy Storrie, defending, said the forensic accountant was instructed several weeks ago and added that the report will be ready by the sentencing hearing.

He told the court that Susan Ashworth, of Dorset Drive, Clitheroe, has no previous convictions, and requested a pre-sentence report.

Neil Robert Ashworth, 60, of the same address, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of converting criminal property totalling £142,545.73.

He was granted unconditional bail to attend Burnley Crown Court for a three-day trial starting on February 28, 2018.

Judge Beverley Lunt also granted Susan Ashworth unconditional bail and told the defendant that she will be sentenced at the conclusion of Mr Ashworth’s trial.

Baxenden St John's CE School

She told the court: “I will order a [pre-sentence] report but it’s a breach of trust and it’s a very substantial amount of money.

“You must not read anything into that.

“It looks like a custodial sentence is inevitable but that can be looked at once the true figure is known and once the report has been read.”

Speaking after the hearing, headteacher Christina Regan said: “We are aware that a former member of staff appeared in court and it is our understanding that they pleaded guilty to charges.

“Financial irregularities came to light after the employee left the school in 2016, which we referred to Lancashire police for investigation.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further as the matter is still subject to the legal process.”

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