Former Calderdale Council manager avoids jail after spending taxpayers' money on holiday and grandson's party

Andrea Breen, 48, who worked for Calderdale Council for 15 years
Andrea Breen, 48, who worked for Calderdale Council for 15 years

A former manager who used a Calderdale Council-issued credit card to pay for her grandson’s christening party as well as other treats has avoided going to prison.

Grandmother Andrea Breen, 48, who had worked for the council for 15 years, should have used the card to pay for legitimate expenses in her trusted role as a licensing and registrations manager, but instead she spent taxpayers money on a wide variety of things including £1100 on the christening party at a Halifax pub.

Bradford Crown Court heard today that Breen, of Ashfield Drive, Ovenden, Halifax, was partly motivated by a revenge because of the way she felt she had been treated over a complaint issue work

Although Breen was earning a salary of £39,000 prosecutor Heather Gilmore said the defendant had also put in for a pay rise because her predecessor had been earning over £50,000.

She said Breen, who had no previous convictions, had referred to the stolen money as being her “compensation” and Recorder Thomas Moran said he accepted there was an element of “revenge” although it was not straightforward.

Miss Gilmore outlined details of how Breen had used the credit card mainly between late 2016 and January 2018 to pay for items such as tickets to a London theatre show as an 18th birthday present, swimming lessons for her grandson and other gifts such as Yankee candles, perfumes and furniture.

Breen had also used the card to pay the balance on a Center Parcs holiday back in November 2017.

After Breen’s offending came to light she tried to explain the unauthorised payments as “refunds”, but she failed to attend a disciplinary hearing in June last year and the police were notified.

Last month Breen admitted stealing from her employer and today Miss Gilmore confirmed that the total sum was £9,829.51.

It emerged during the hearing that Breen was in line for a council pension of £120,000 and Recorder Moran made a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act which means that all the stolen money plus just over £300 in interest will be seized from her pension.

After reading a psychological report which indicated that Breen had been suffering from an adjustment disorder at the time of the offending due to events at work and family issues, Recorder Moran told her he would not be sending her to custody for the thefts.

The judge suspended her six months jail term for a year and ordered Breen to do 80 hours unpaid work for the community.

She will also have to comply with a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and must also pay the costs of the case amounting to £1200.

Recorder Moran said Breen had admitted the offending at her police interview and the only issue was the precise amount of money she had stolen.

“Quite simply what this offending involved was you using that credit card to make many of your own purchases for a wide variety of things, the majority of which appear to have been for the benefit of, not you, but family members,” the judge told Breen.

The judge said Breen had felt “hard done by” over how the complaint at work was handled and the fact that she was not paid as much as she thought she should be.

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, it can’t possibly provide any justification for the thefts,” he added.

The judge heard that Breen had got another job at a restaurant and he accepted that she had now shown clear remorse for her offending.

Barrister Joanne Shepherd, for Breen, said her client was at a loss to explain her behaviour and was thoroughly ashamed of herself and genuinely remorseful.

“The whole of these proceedings have had a salutary effect on her. She has clearly struggled with her own behaviour and how she came to be in the position she was,” added Miss Shepherd.