A MUM who stole nearly £25,000 from a primary school and spent it on shopping sprees and hotel stays has been jailed.

Gillian Turton, of Dunsop Avenue in Clock Face, swindled a total of £24,126 out of St Basil’s Catholic Primary School in Widnes by abusing her position as office manager.

The 41-year-old pinched money raised for charity by pupils, funds generated by pre-school and after-school clubs and cash paid by parents for school trips.

On Thursday, April 11, she was handed 10 months behind bars after admitting theft by employee and 10 counts of fraud.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Turton was employed as finance manager at the Hough Green school before taking over the role of office manager in January 2015.

But after she left her post in March last year, headteacher Angela Sheppard discovered irregularities in the school's accounts.

Turton had swiped cash and forged the head's signature in order to make out cheques for herself over the space of two-and-a-half years before her departure from St Basil's – spending the money shopping online at Amazon and Argos, and on a hotel stay in Chester.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

St Basil's Catholic Primary School - picture by Google Maps

Ms Sheppard told the court: "She thoroughly abused her position of trust.

"The school serves a disadvantaged community, and this crime significantly reduces the capacity of the school to meet the needs of all pupils – especially our most disadvantaged.

"She had both my personal and professional confidence and trust.

"As a Christian, I believe mutual trust, care and respect underpins human relationships.

"When this trust is abused, it is hard to move forwards.

"These actions have cast very long shadows."

Mum-of-two Turton, who has no previous convictions, was in tears in the dock as she was jailed by judge Neil Flewitt.

Sentencing, judge Flewitt said: "You were a trusted and capable member of the senior management team.

"You should have put your talents to the benefit of the school community, but you didn't - you betrayed the high degree of trust that had been placed in you by anybody with whom and for whom your worked.

"Over a significant period of time, you stole money that should have gone to the benefit of pupils at that school.

"It is difficult to understand why you were doing that.

"There are cases where appropriate punishment can only be achieved by an immediate custodial sentence, and I regret to say that this is one such case.

"I would be failing in my public duty if I did not send out the message that this sort of offending can't be tolerated - I see no alternative but the imposition of an immediate custodial sentence."

Turton will serve half of her 10-month sentence before being released on licence, and was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge.

A Halton Borough Council spokesman added: "When the financial irregularities were identified by the school a thorough audit investigation was completed.

"The school is a victim of the fraud, committed by someone in a position of trust, as it has taken money away from the children."