A KEIGHLEY woman who creamed off more than £20,000 from her employer has been ordered to pay back just £10 of her ill-gotten gains.

Joan Whitrick, who cooked the books at Just Desserts bakery in Station Road, Shipley, had been told by Judge Colin Burn when she was sentenced in January that the cash would have to be paid back “even if it takes you the rest of your days to do it”.

But yesterday the 58-year-old was ordered to repay just £10 after she assured the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC, that she was not “sitting on a fortune or living in a mansion” and that she could afford “£10 and that’s it”.

Whitrick, of Cherry Tree Rise, had been sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 300 hours of unpaid work.

Yesterday, she was back in court for a Proceeds of Crime Application hearing in which the benefit from her criminality was assessed at £21,498.

But the grandmother, who was not legally represented, said she had no available assets with which to meet that bill.

Jonathan Sharp, for the Crown, told the court a nominal sum of £10 should be fixed for repayment.

Judge Durham Hall said “it used to be £1”, to which Mr Sharp answered: “I am told it is now £10.”

“Inflation, Mr Sharp,” the judge replied.

The court was told by a financial investigator that although Whitrick was sentenced for taking £20,105 from her employer, a “cost of living” increase had racked up her benefit figure to £21,498.

Judge Durham Hall made the confiscation order, telling Whitrick: “I am happy to draw a line under this today. If you win the Pools or the Lottery, a lady like this financial investigator here might come knocking.”

He asked Whitrick if she could afford £10, to which she replied: “£10 and that’s it.”

Judge Durham Hall told her to own up now if she was “sitting on a fortune or living in a mansion somewhere”.

“I sometimes get such applications and find they have got 15 houses,” he said.

Whitrick, who told the court she is in work, must pay the £10 within 28 days or risk a day in prison in default.

In January, the court heard how she was an office administrator at the award-winning craft bakery when she stole from it over a two-year period to fund her gambling habit.

She was originally charged with stealing £50,500 from her employer, between May, 2011, and July, 2016, but her plea of guilty to the lesser amount was accepted by the crown following a thorough investigation by financial experts.

Prosecutor Andrew Horton said Whitrick joined the company, that was formed in 1985, in May, 2011.

She failed to tell her employer that she was a convicted benefit cheat who was given a suspended sentence of imprisonment in 2008 for stealing £3,000 while working as a book-keeper at Richmond Upholstery in Keighley.

Mr Horton said that Whitrick’s dishonesty at Just Desserts was revealed by an audit in May 2016. Suspicion fell upon her and her previous convictions were uncovered.

Whitrick took small amounts of cash to put into her bank account. “It was £60 here and £190 there,” Mr Horton told the court.

She “palmed” cash sums from customers and drivers. The sums were marked as “paid” but the company did not receive the money. It was conceded during the sentencing hearing that Whitrick had a serious gambling problem, losing £21,273 during her time at Just Desserts.

After she was dismissed, she texted her bosses to say sorry and to ask them to keep the police out of the matter. She also pledged to pay back the money.

A report from the firm, that employs 25 people, said it had continued to trade profitably but the theft had forced it to tighten up on pay rises and bonuses.

Imran Khan, Whitrick’s barrister, said she was now working as a sales manager for a different company and had earned promotion in the role.

As well as a suspended sentence and unpaid work, Whitrick was ordered to attend a thinking skills course, which is designed to help offenders learn how to stay out of trouble and is made up of 15 two-hour-long sessions.

Just Desserts declined to comment on yesterday’s proceedings.

Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said the case was “tragic for all those concerned”.

He said: “It is terrible for the company, and they must feel aggrieved they will never see this money again.

“It is not a victimless crime, thefts like this and stealing such sums can bankrupt a business or mean they have to lay off staff.

“I’m sure this has been a kick in the teeth for the company, but this is tragic for all concerned.

“Her addiction is clearly a massive issue for her and her family and she needs to get treatment to make sure it doesn’t happen again, that is the most important thing.

“Whether that should be in prison is hard to say without knowing the facts.”