A “trusted” publican who stole nearly £70,000 from a Christmas club has been jailed for 22 months.
Sally Johnstone, 54, of Beaumont Road, Cheltenham, took the cash from Cheltenham’s Kings Arms fund over two years, Gloucester Crown Court heard.
She pleaded guilty to two charges of theft and one of fraud.
Sentencing her, Judge Ian Lawrie QC said the theft was a “calculated act”, adding her customers had “completely trusted” her with their cash deposits.
The theft emerged last July when she was suspended by the pub’s owners.
Judge Lawrie said he had read victim statements which were “rather heart-rending”.
“They made uncomfortable reading,” he added.
The court was told Johnstone covered up the first year’s thefts by defrauding a friend out of a £30,000 inheritance.
Mary Cowe, prosecuting, told the court Johnstone had lived at the Kings Arms on Gloucester Road for most of her life and had taken over its licence in 2016.
“It was a community pub. She knew all the losers in this case. Some were regular customers and some were friends,” Ms Cowe said.
‘Dissipated money away’
In July last year her thefts came to light after she was suspended by the pub’s owners and some of the customers consoled her, the prosecutor said.
“She reassured them that whatever had happened between herself and the pub owners their Christmas money was safe – but the truth was that at that point she had dissipated all their money away,” Ms Cowe said.
In mitigation, Sarah Jenkins, defending, said Johnstone taking over the pub “was the biggest mistake of her life”.
“What she thought was going to be a lucrative business ended up being anything but.
“She felt everything was spiralling out of control and she had got out of her depth.”