A SUB-POSTMISTRESS who defrauded the Post Office out of thousands of pounds in order to keep her shop trading during the difficult winter months has been spared jail.
Carole Englefield, 59, who took over Sennen Stores and Post Office with her husband in 2006, said she wanted to keep the shop open for the benefit of residents, despite being badly hit by the recession and a loss in tourist trade.
But an audit in May revealed a shortage of £14,863 cash and stock in the Sennen post office accounts and Englefield, a qualified accountant, immediately admitted what she had done.
Her defence counsel, Terry Eastwood, told Truro Crown Court: "Englefield has led an honest and industrious life for 59 years.
"Now her world has fallen apart. Her overriding concern was to keep the post office and grocery business going for the benefit of residents."
Judge John Neligan, sentencing Englefield, said: "Local people are very much dependent on the stores Englefield and her husband were running.
"This is a classic case of taking money out of the post office and putting it into your grocery business in the hope of being able to keep it going when your trade improves.
"An unfortunate combination of circumstances proved otherwise. With hindsight you realise there was no realistic hope of repaying the money. You should have asked for help earlier."
Prosecutor Maurice Champion told the court that as soon as the deficit in the post office accounts was discovered, Englefield immediately admitted what she had done and handed over the keys, saying she had had enough. She later pleaded guilty to fraud and was given a 40-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
She must also do 60 hours of unpaid work for the community in a charity shop in Penzance and pay £200 towards the £1,945 costs sought by the prosecution.
Judge Neligan told her: "Probably the biggest punishment for you is your loss of good character and the obvious humiliation you feel. I hope local people will continue to respect and support you."
Englefield and her husband, John, moved from Devon to take over Sennen Stores in March 2006.
At the time, Mrs Englefield told The Cornishman: "We have a very large elderly population and they are very widespread. They would have to rely on other people to go into Penzance to do their banking, or use the bus service which is virtually non-existent, if we were to close. We get a lot of feedback from them saying they don't know what they would do if we weren't here. They rely on us for post office work, as a bank and as a convenience store."
Mr Englefield died in August last year, leaving his wife and their part-time staff to run the post office and grocery stores.
A Post Office spokeswoman confirmed the service was now being operated by a temporary sub-postmaster. She said: "The Post Office in Sennen is currently being operated by a temporary sub-postmaster alongside the owner's retail business. The Post Office is committed to maintaining Post Office services for the local community and we are currently exploring options that will enable us to do so on a permanent basis."