A charity that lost thousands of pounds to a woman who yesterday walked free from court says it feels “betrayed” by her sentence.
Gillian Fowler, 71, of Tallis Way, Borehamwood, was yesterday given 21 months in jail suspended for 21 months, when she appeared at St Albans Crown Court.
She pleaded guilty to stealing £3,824 from The Sunday Club in Borehamwood between February 2009 and April 2013, while she was treasurer.
In sentencing her, Judge Warner said she deserved to go to prison for her “thoroughly mean” crimes, however her age and poor mental and physical health led him suspend the sentence.
Fowler helped found The Sunday Club in 1999 with Tom Connaughton, who already ran a cancer charity after his sister died of the disease.
The organisation, which meets in pubs, raised money for Peace Hospice Care, which helps more than 1,500 patients with a life limiting illness from across south west Hertfordshire each year.
Between 2009 and 2013, Fowler took money the organisation had raised through organising raffles, walks and dances by forging Mr Connaughton’s signature on cheques that she then cashed.
Mr Connaughton said he was “disappointed” the judge had not decided to send her to jail.
He said: “We founded the organisation together, and I trusted her, we worked together for decades. The organisation worked so hard to raise this money and I never thought she would have been capable of this.
“In taking this money, Gillian was stealing from terminally ill people, whose last days might have been made easier had it not been for her actions.”
Vice chairman of the Royal British Legion Dennis Stilwell, whose son died of a brain tumour in 2002 aged 30 after being nursed by the Peace Hospice, said Fowler’s actions were “out of order”.
He described how Fowler had been trusted to cash a “significant” amount of money from a dance held at St Teresa’s Church in October to raise money for The Sunday Club.
He said: “Of course the money never made it. She got off very lightly. She should have been ordered to pay compensation, even if she could not have afforded it.
“Her actions are even more of a betrayal because of this.”