A finance boss who stole over £200,000 from her secondary school over seven years has been ordered to pay back less than half.
Ghislain Sharron Smithson, 52, diverted over £100,000 in cash into her bank account from the Keswick School, in Cumbria, between 2012 and 2018.
But she also used the school account to buy herself holidays – like a a luxury 10-day Caribbean break-for-two to Antigua.
Ghislain Sharron Smithson, 52, (pictured) stole over £200,000 from her secondary school over seven years has been ordered to pay back less than half
Carlisle Crown Court heard she even used the school credit card to treat herself to £30,000 in foreign currency when on holidays.
Last December she was jailed for 32 months after admitting stealing £188,000 prosecutors say the likely figure was £208,094.
Now Smithson, of Cockermouth, has been ordered to repay £76,000 within three months or else face an extra 12 months behind bars.
Smithson splashed out on holidays raiding the school’s reserves while in day-to-day control of its purse strings during a decade of trusted employment.
A software glitch also allowed the former finance manager to authorise payments using her signature alone, despite two normally being required.
Smithson lived the high life despite attending budget meetings at which colleagues were trying to cut costs and avoid job losses.
Between 2012 and 2018, she created fake companies and bogus invoices to channel cash for her own benefit.
Her illegal activity was finally uncovered after she moved jobs last year, a finance officer conducting an overview and finding irregularities.
More than £4,200 had been paid out of school coffers by Smithson towards a luxury 10-day Caribbean break for two to Antigua.
It emerged a school credit card was used to buy foreign currency totalling more than £30,000, buying Jet2 Holidays and hotels.
Last December, prosecutor Gerard Rogerson said an ‘overwhelming’ emotional burden had been placed on other staff by Smithson stealing school cash to ‘fund her own luxury lifestyle’.
Smithson diverted over £100,000 in cash into her bank account from the Keswick School (pictured), in Cumbria, between 2012 and 2018
Headteacher Simon Jackson described the discovery of Smithson’s theft as ‘devastating’ in a statement detailing the huge knock-on effect.
Mr Jackson said: ‘Her actions have taken money away from some of the most vulnerable and deprived schoolchildren – and she sat in meetings where these hard decisions were made.
‘These actions in breach of trust have harmed children, their families and the educational profession.
‘The austerity of the last seven years has made the life of the school tough.
‘Hard decisions were taken and it was a struggle to find ways to reduce expenditure, whilst trying to avoid redundancies.
‘Some posts were left vacant, others were made redundant. Fund-raising was essential, as was increasing class sizes.
‘These were ‘some of the most gruelling meetings and decisions the school has ever made’ – and the defendant was present throughout.’
Mr Rogerson said: ‘The children have had less support.
‘Mr Jackson is angry and upset a number of children could have benefited from more one-to-one work, had the budget allowed, and that these decisions could have made a difference to their final outcomes.’
The court heard a new finance system had since been implemented to address areas exploited by Smithson.
Judge Nicholas Barker learned the sum stolen was equivalent to depriving every current pupil of around £20 per annum for every year of their secondary education.
David Hammond, chairman of the local governing body, had stated: ‘The consequences of this theft will reverberate through the school for a long time.’
Smithson admitted theft and was said to be ‘very sorry’ for her crime and the consequences.
‘The defendant struggles to understand why she acted as she did,’ said her barrister, Judith McCullough.
Jailing Smithson, Judge Barker said: ‘It is the context of the money being stolen by you in a position of trust which makes the dishonesty so wicked.
‘You have left a stain upon the school and that has a lasting impact upon it, and had an impact upon the children.’