Thefts blamed for travel firm failure

Stuart Arnott, who owns Vacation Travel based in Birley Street Blackpool
Stuart Arnott, who owns Vacation Travel based in Birley Street Blackpool
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A TRAVEL firm claims it was forced to make 32 staff redundant after an employee conned it out of thousands of pounds.

Jacqueline Dewhurst’s deceit brought Vacation Travel to its knees when she stole £8,000 from the firm while working in the foreign exchange bureau.

Stuart Arnott, owner of the firm, claims the 48-year-old – who was entrusted with large amounts of money – contributed to the closure of branches in Blackpool, Cleveleys and Halifax last year.

In court, Dewhurst, of Newton Drive, Blackpool, admitted three counts of theft between July 2009 and May last year.

Mr Arnott said: “Due to her behaviour two members of staff left the company suffering from anxiety. This then put extra pressure and stress on me.

“Jacqueline’s actions not only affected me but my members of staff which in my opinion is unforgivable.

“She was aware my company was having severe money trouble due to the current recession. I believe Jacqueline has been a contributing factor in the company closure where 32 employees lost their jobs. I felt betrayed and let down by Jacqueline, who I had entrusted with large amounts of money.”

Preston Crown Court heard how Dewhurst stole £2,700 cash from Vacation Travel between July 1 and July 5, 2009.

She then took 2,960 US Dollars and 17,000 Norwegian Krone between March 17 and March 27 last year.

Dewhurst’s crimes only came to light when she was confronted by her managers on May 11 last year. She was caught red-handed when 3,000 Euros were discovered in the glove box of her car.

Dewhurst was sentenced to 200 hours un-paid work on December 16.

At the same time as her offences the firm also suffered a burglary at their Cleveleys branch. Around £5,000 was taken from the safe.

Mr Arnott says Dewhurst’s actions, the burglary and strain from the affect of the recession finally took their toll on his business, which he has owned for 15 years.

He says Dewhurst should have been given a tougher sentence – and been forced to pay back the money she took.

He added: “The thefts were a contributory factor, having to re-pay out that money. It was the first time in 15 years we had made a loss. It was a kick in the teeth.

“It contributed to a loss in profit which led to people losing their jobs when we closed three branches in August.

“The breach of trust and lack of remorse was unbelievable. I was fuming.

“She has never offered to pay anything back at all. 200 hours of un-paid work doesn’t equate to the amount she has stolen.

“I believe in a justice system, she should have got a custodial sentence.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said the sentencing was decided by the courts.

A spokesman for the CPS said: “It doesn’t come under the unduly lenient category, we wouldn’t have any recourse to refer it to the Attorney General.

“The sentence is a matter of the court and the judge weighing up the information he has with reference to sentencing guidelines.”