Woman who stole more than £5k from East Durham church charity is jailed

Ruth Lumsden (picture courtesy of NCJ Media)
Ruth Lumsden (picture courtesy of NCJ Media)

A WOMAN who stole more than £5,000 from a church charity in less than a week has been jailed for two years.

Ruth Lumsden took the money after volunteering to be treasurer for Cafe Together, a Methodist church lunch club in Easington Colliery which offers meals to the hard-up for just £1.

Durham Crown Court heard Lumsden stole money from another charity, Peoples’ Kitchen on Tyneside, when she volunteered there earlier this year.

Her previous convictions include theft from the British Heart Foundation, for which she was jailed for a year in 2008.

“The prosecution case is Lumsden targets charities,” said Ian Bradshaw, prosecuting.

“Within a week of being appointed treasurer at Cafe Together, the bank reported unusual activity on the account to the previous treasurer.

“It seems Lumsden spent the money on herself.

“When arrested, police found a new bed and some recently acquired second-hand furniture in her house.”

In a statement read to the court, Christine Smithson, secretary of Cafe Together, said: “We trusted Lumsden and feel badly let down.

“She has taken half our money which is bound to impact on the work we do.

“We are also concerned this case will restrict our fundraising in future, and may deter volunteers from coming forward.”

Lumsden, 44, of Crawlaw Road, in Easington Colliery, admitted theft of £5,200 in April of this year.

Jane Waugh, defending, said in mitigation: “This money was not taken to fund high living.

“Mrs Lumsden knows she steals for some psychological reason and has been trying to tackle that with the mental health team in Low Newton Prison, where she has been on remand.”

The Recorder, Mr Ray Singh, jailed Lumsden for two years.

“Your guilty plea is the only point in your favour,” the recorder told Lumsden.

“You have a dreadful record for dishonesty dating back to 1999, and only this year you were caught stealing from another charity.

“The court that dealt with you then gave you a chance, but this time only immediate custody is appropriate.”

Easington’s Churches Together scheme, which involves five local churches, launched CAFE Together in February 2013.

It came after church urban fund statistics found Easington Colliery had a high level of overall deprivation.

Church bosses were concerned about people having to experience such hardship, launching the scheme after a year of planning.