A VILLAGE nursery which was defrauded out of thousands of pounds by its former deputy manager has vowed that its children's care will not be affected.
Julie Ann Goldstraw, aged 34, of Whitmore Avenue, Werrington, was given a 12-week jail sentence, later suspended for 18 months on appeal, after admitting taking £6,542.40 from Early Stages Limited.
She stole the money from Teddy's Garden Nursery in St Edwards Park, Cheddleton, where she had worked from June 2004.
Justine Cope and her husband are directors of Early Stages Limited, which runs three nurseries including Teddy's Garden.
Mrs Cope said: "It has been extremely difficult for us to comprehend the crimes committed by Ms Goldstraw, who was previously not only a highly regarded senior employee, but also a friend and colleague.
"The impact on our setting and business as a whole has been tremendous.
"We are recognised as an outstanding provider of childcare and education and would like to stress that at no point has the care of the children been affected by this investigation, and we continue to maintain our high standards in all aspects of our provision. During the original hearing we were praised us for our conduct throughout the investigation, and we are proud of the professionalism and sensitivity shown by our staff team during this difficult time, and are grateful for the ongoing support from our parents."
Goldstraw's crimes were revealed on September 16, 2013, when Mrs Cope checked the Teddy's Garden Nursery account online and found several cheques had been written over several months.
The couple discovered payments had been made to Severn Trent Water, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Goldstraw.
Further investigations revealed Goldstraw also wrote cheques from the Early Stages Limited account, including utility bills to BT and British Gas, and the company credit card had been used to pay a bailiff's bill.
The defendant, who has no previous convictions, was arrested on October 10, 2013.
She claimed she had not used the account, written any cheques or paid any utility bills, and that the handwriting on the cheques looked like hers but was not. But she later admitted the offences and pleaded guilty to three offences of fraud last month.
Goldstraw was originally sentenced to serve 12 weeks in prison by North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court in Newcastle, on March 27.
She spent four days in prison, but after appealing at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court she was released and given a suspended sentence instead.
Mrs Cope added: "We are disappointed that Ms Goldstraw's sentence has been reduced and suspended, and were understandably shocked to hear this from the local press rather than through the appropriate channels, as we were expecting to be given the opportunity to attend the appeal hearing.
"As an organisation we take no pleasure from a former employee being handed a custodial sentence, but feel that due to the seriousness and prolonged nature of the crimes and position of trust held by Ms Goldstraw within the organisation a suspended sentence is extremely lenient."
As well as supervision, Goldstraw must complete the female offenders' workbook; six victim awareness group sessions; and 16 sessions at Chepstow House in Hanley, which aims to help women get their lives back on track. She must also pay £2,500 compensation.