A CLEANER and lunchtime supervisor at a Dorset primary school stole £50 that had been raised by children in a charity bake sale.

Julie Daly, who had worked at Wool CE Primary School for 20 years, snatched the cash from a jar that was in a school office for safe keeping.

A sentencing hearing at Bournemouth Crown Court on December 1 was told the 56-year-old's marriage had recently broken down at the time of the theft and she faced "financial difficulties".

Prosecuting, Gary Venturi said: "CCTV had been installed in private areas of the school.

"There had been money in a pot that had been collected from a fundraising event."

Mr Venturi said Daly could be seen on footage taking the pot from a filing cabinet on July 4, 2018, before returning it with less money in it.

"Having been identified and been involved in taking the pot from the filing cabinet, she said she had been there at the request of another member of staff," added Mr Venturi.

Daly, of Back Lane, Wool, initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of theft. A trial was initially set to take place last year but had to rescheduled due to a lack of court time being available.

It was rescheduled to earlier this year but pushed back again as the defendant was unable to attend due to having coronavirus symptoms.

The trial was relisted for November 3 but Daly failed to attend, citing a Covid-related close contact issue.

Officials confirmed she was able to attend court the following day, however, once again she failed to attend in the morning due to "travel" problems.

Police executed a court warrant that afternoon and she pleaded guilty to failing to attend and changed her plea to admit the theft.

Mitigating, Hollie Gilbery said: "She does now fully accept that she took that money.

"She explained that her marriage had recently broken down and there were financial difficulties.

"She knows it was not the right way to deal with her problems."

On her failing to attend the trial, Ms Gilbery said Daly "buried her head in the sand" having developed "serious" anxiety and stress ahead of the court hearing.

Recorder Alexia Power said the defendant, who now works in a restaurant as a kitchen porter and cleaner, stole around £50 from the £70 the children raised through the cake sale.

The judge issued Daly with an 18-month community order to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work, as well as ordering her to pay £50 compensation to the school and £200 court costs.

Wool CE Primary School headteacher Ellie Griffiths told the Daily Echo: "Whilst disappointed that the incident ever took place, I am relieved that the situation can now be put behind us.

"We will continue to put the children at the heart of all we do and will now move forward positively."