South Yorkshire council clerk loses appeal

Serial fraudster Janet Cooper, aged 52
Serial fraudster Janet Cooper, aged 52

A criminal who conned her way into a town clerk’s job in order to steal almost £300,000 of Barnsley taxpayers’ money has failed to get her sentence cut.

Janet Cooper, aged 51, of Wadsley Lane, Hillsborough, dishonestly applied for £695,000 of loans in Brierley Town Council’s name, pilfering £295,000 for herself.

She was caught out by a vigilant town councillor and, after admitting four frauds and one theft, was jailed for eight years at Sheffield Crown Court.

She appealed the sentence, but was told by judges at the Court of Appeal that her offences were too serious to justify anything less.

“This was a very unusual and extremely serious case of fraud, committed in breach of trust by a public servant, which had massive consequences for the local community,” said Mr Justice Spencer.

Cooper had a previous conviction for stealing £800,000 from a former employer, but did not disclose it when she applied for the clerk’s job.

She forged documents and applied for four government loans, totalling £695,000, for public works projects.

She said the money came in grants and did not have to be paid back, before transferring £295,000 to her own account.

The council spent the cash on expensive projects, including kitting out a community gym, buying a community bus and refurbishing the Town Hall.

The fraud emerged when Cooper went off sick.

In a victim impact statement, the council said the costs of Cooper’s crimes would be felt by the community for at least 20 years.

Mr Justice Spencer said: “This was a case which required a severe sentence, and her sentence was properly severe.”