Joanne Lisa Thornton, a former employee of Visit Isle of Wight who stole over £33,000 from the tourism organisation, has been handed a 20 month suspended prison sentence at the Isle of Wight Crown Court today (Monday).
Thornton, of Snaithing Lane in Sheffield, admitted fraud by abuse of position to the sum of £18,961 and theft by an employee to the sum of £14,913 when she appeared before the Isle of Wight Magistrates Court in October 2018. The case was adjourned to appear before the Crown Court in November, where it was then decided to defer sentencing for 4 months to give Thornton the chance to pay back the money she stole.
However, the former finance director has to date failed to pay back the £33,875 owed. Judge Richard Melville today handed Thornton a 20 month prison sentence – suspended for 2 years – for each charge (to run concurrently) and ordered her to pay the money back in full within 7 days, or else face going to prison. It is understood that arrangements have now been made to make the payment.
Thornton has also been made subject to a 3 month curfew.
For Thornton, James Horne said:
“She is devastated at the harm she has caused the organisation and the upset she has caused to the Island more generally. It started with the intention to take a little and pay it back, but this spiralled way past that.”
Will Myles, Managing Director of Visit Isle of Wight, has said:
“Visit Isle of Wight acknowledges and respects the sentence the court has handed down to Joanne Thornton today
“The fraud and theft came to light initially following an internal audit of our finances. To trace the missing monies, a team of specialised forensic accountants were brought in, equipped to deal with the intricacies of a crime such as this.
“The findings of the report were then handed to the police, who initiated proceedings against our former employee.
“These crimes have been committed by Joanne Thornton alone, and she is responsible for this situation.
It is understood that the stolen money did not come from Wight BID levy payers, but from other sources such as transport providers and the Visit Isle of Wight shop. However, in addition to the almost £34,000 directly lost through Joanne Thornton’s actions, Visit Isle of Wight are a further £28,000 out of pocket in terms of the lost hours and the costs of the investigation into the situation.
Will Myles has shared an important message to Wight BID levy payers and Voluntary Contributors:
“I continue to assure our Wight BID levy payers that all monies received have been used fully and in the correct manner in line with the Wight BID structure and plans.
“I have put in place an array of people, processes and policies to ensure that this situation does not happen again.
“This day is a “line in the sand” and we must move on and do what we are best at, namely marketing the Isle of Wight and bringing visitors to our shores, which annually accounts for £303 millions of economic impact.
“Visit Isle of Wight has dealt with this situation, but it was not of our making – it lies firmly at the door of Joanne Thornton, who we trusted, but she stole from the organisation”.
It has been confirmed that no directors will be standing down from Visit Isle of Wight.
The disgraced Joanne Thornton is the wife of former Visit Isle of Wight CEO David Thornton, however, it is said that Joanne’s crimes were committed by her alone.