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3 May 2017

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Practice manager convicted of defrauding her surgery

A Somerset practice was defrauded £22,000 over three years by its practice manager who has since been given a suspended sentence for the theft.

Jackie Bibby was found to be wrongfully paying herself thousands of pounds from the practice’s bank accounts for fake overtime.

The fraud began in 2011 when Bibby became manager of Clarence Park Surgery in Weston-super-Mare, and only stopped when she was caught in 2015.

The case was heard at Bristol Crown Court where the prosecutor, Edward Hetherington said that at first the practice was pleased with Bibby’s work.

However, Bibby began to make excuses to leave work during the day and took ‘very long lunch breaks,’ he said.

A practice meeting was held in which Bibby was criticised for time keeping, the court was told.

When Bibby was away on holiday in 2015, a letter came from North Somerset Council calling for the immediate payment of an outstanding £1,000 council tax. That is when the staff began to look into the paperwork the manager was responsible for.

The prosecutor told the court that her desk was found to be ‘in disarray’. ‘There was no filing, no organisation and demands were unopened,’ Hetherington said.

One of the practice’s former managers, Susan Winser, was brought in to investigate, and discovered that Bibby had paid herself numerous illegal bonuses from the practice’s bank accounts between 2011 and 2015.

The fraud included £21,000 in false overtime, £750 in salary advances which were not paid back and a £500 unapproved bonuses.

Oliver Willmott, defending, said what started as his client’s ‘muddled’ work progressed into something more.

He described how the mother-of-three had type 2 diabetes; that her middle son had gone through a marriage break up; and that her youngest son was severely agoraphobic and struggling to leave the house.

‘She has worked hard for the rest of her life, until the age of 58,’ Willmott said.

‘References speak well of her. She expresses remorse and, indeed, shame.’

During sentencing, court recorder Michael Vere-Hodge QC said: ‘This is a matter of considerable public concern because of the scarcity of resources for public health in this country. 

‘It was fraud, over a long period of time, and it involved considerable breach of trust.’ 

Bibby was sentenced to a 12-months jail term, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work.

It is unclear how much if any of the money she will have to pay back, as this will be decided by the practice.