A woman who stole £60,000 from a church has received a suspended jail term.
Lyndsey Bredin (27), of Primity Crescent, Newbuildings, pleaded guilty to 19 charges of theft between March 2010 and October 2011.
Londonderry Crown Court heard that Bredin was honorary treasurer for Culmore and Muff Parish Church when she stole the money. She was responsible for lodging money from weekly collections, funeral and wedding donations and general fundraising, and the court heard some of the money taken included donations made for a new roof for Muff Church which parishioners made in memory of loved ones. Bredin destroyed all records relating to these donations and messages which had been sent with them.
The thefts came to light when an internal audit was ordered because the Rector of the parish began to have concerns about the 27-year-old’s record keeping.
It was discovered Bredin was paying cheques to herself rather than paying the outgoings of the church.
She was arrested and during police interview made full admissions and said she was ashamed of what she had done.
The court heard the money was spent on ‘luxuries’ including restaurants, weekends away, hotels and buying a car.
Half of the money has been claimed back from an insurance company but the church is still at a “substantial loss”.
Passing sentence, Judge Philip Babington said the thefts had a “significant impact” on the church and caused “stress and hardship to the families that worship there”.
He added that the “financial position of the church has been substantially weakened”.
The judge said it was “extremely disappointing that not a penny has been repaid” by Bredin.
He referred to a probation report in which the 27-year-old said she felt the church did not provide her with enough support when she was in an abusive marriage.
Judge Babington said it was “disappointing and hurtful that she seeks to criticise the pastoral support given by her precious church which she has defrauded”.
Suspending an 18 month jail term for three years, Judge Babington said it was a “very serious breach of trust” adding Bredin stole “from those who she knew, her fellow parishioners, and put in jeopardy plans to re-roof one of the churches”.
However, he said it was with “hesitation” that he was giving Bredin the “benefit of the doubt”.