YORKSHIRE: A trusted school dinner lady has been jailed after stealing nearly £100,000 of lunch money over an eight-year period to fund her secret gambling habit. Betty Davidson, 57, had been working at Rossett School in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, for 20 years in December when the school’s finance director noticed the catering department was operating at a loss. Davidson was responsible for transferring students’ cash deposits for their lunches from a pre-pay machine to a credit account that let them pay for meals. But in 2007 she began taking money from the machine to fund a serious online gambling addiction, York Crown Court heard. Staff at the school considered the dinner lady “an institution.” She was trusted with looking after the machine and the money was never checked until a finance director looked at the accounts last year. Davidson then admitted theft – but said that she had only taken a sum of £1,300 on one occasion.
Davidson’s lawyer Alasdair Campbell told the court that the catering manager’s husband had no idea of his wife’s addiction and it was hidden from everyone. “She has sought counselling for the illness and feels terrible about the theft and letting the school down,” he said. Davidson, of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to theft of £98,114 that took place between 2007 and 2015. She was jailed for a year and four months, with Judge Paul Batty, QC, telling her: “This was not a case where you needed the money – you were not stealing to feed and clothe your family with the bare necessities of life. “You were stealing to fund a habit and addiction, a habit and addiction which has ultimately ruined you.” A spokesperson for Rossett School said it was “relieved” by the sentence. “We were deeply shocked to find that she had betrayed the trust we put in her, and particularly to the level that was later uncovered. It was a deliberate act of theft.”