The former treasurer of the Kineton Music Festival has finally confessed to defrauding the organisation out of more than £23,000 over a ten-month period.
Samantha Strong, 32, of Horseshoe Crescent, Wellesbourne, had pleaded not guilty to a charge of fraud in abuse of a position of trust when she appeared at Warwickshire magistrates’ court in Leamington last month.
The magistrates decided the case was too serious for them to deal with, and that it should be tried in front of a jury at Warwick Crown Court.
But at a plea and trial preparation hearing in the crown court on Friday, Strong pleaded guilty to the offence.
The charge detailed she had committed the fraud while occupying a position of trust as treasurer, in which she was ‘expected to safeguard or not act against the interests of Kineton Music Festival.’
It was said she abused her position between November 1, 2015 and August 30, 2016 to obtain a total of £26,532 for herself – although that figure was in dispute.
She did so by forging a signature to obtain a debit card for the festival’s account and then using it to withdraw substantial sums of money.
Strong is also said to have kept money paid to her by sponsors and failed to bank cash from ticket sales.
But Judge Andrew Lockhart QC was told that Strong had entered her plea on the basis that the amount she actually obtained by her dishonesty was £23,142.
And the Crown Prosecution Service has indicated that it wants to speak to the police officer in charge of the case before deciding whether to accept that figure.
Adjourning the case for that to be done, Judge Lockhart gave to prosecution until Friday July 7 to indicate whether the basis of plea is accepted or whether they want a trial of that issue.
But he commented: “In my view, it would be unnecessary for there to be litigation over the amount.”
Kate Hatton, defending, asked for the case to be further adjourned for ‘a full pre-sentence report’ to be prepared on Strong, who was of previous good character, rather than a quicker ‘stand-down report.’
Miss Hatton explained: “There are considerable issues it’s necessary for the probation service to discuss with Miss Strong.”
Adjourning the case and granting her unconditional bail, Judge Lockhart told Strong: “You have pleaded here to a serious matter.
“You will receive the appropriate level of credit, but it is right to say you could have entered that plea at an earlier stage in the magistrates’ court.”
And he warned her: “You must understand that in granting you bail and a pre-sentence report, I am giving you no guarantee that it will not be a custodial sentence.”