Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 16:51 UK

Preacher's 64k post office theft

Robert North
Robert North used the money to pay bills, including building work

A man who stole over £64,000 from a sub-post office run by his wife has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Caernarfon Crown court heard Robert North, 58, encouraged his wife Annette, 56, to commit a serious breach of trust at the business she ran at Fairbourne.

Recorder Nic Parry, said North - a lay preacher - had taken advantage of his "dominance" over his wife.

Sentencing on Mrs North was adjourned until 9 October. The couple, from Arthog, had admitted theft.

The court heard Mrs North was sub-postmistress at Fairbourne in south Gwynedd.

North used the money to pay bills, including building work, in the shop he ran on the same premises.

Prosecutor Richard Cole said a £64,700 shortfall was discovered when an audit took place last December.

Mr Cole said North told investigators that attempts to finance development work had failed and he became desperate.

The Post Office will be seeking to recover the loss.

Financial difficulties

Mr Cole said there were letters from business people who felt the couple had tried to muscle in and take over the village.

But defence barrister, Dafydd Roberts, said there were 22 references in favour of North, to which Mr Roberts said it would appear the community of Fairbourne was "split" in the views they had of the defendant.

The barrister said the offence was committed as a result of North finding himself in difficulties after committing himself to expanding the family business.

He said circumstances beyond North's control then left him in an embarrassing position.

The plan had been to pay for the expansion by selling another property, but the sale fell through, he said.

The judge told North: "You have abused your wife's devotion to you. You have taken advantage of your dominance over her.

"You persuaded her to do a dreadful thing knowing her liberty would be affected, and all because you took a calculated risk."

The judge told North that customers, including the elderly had been directly affected.

He had been complicit in the loss of a service to the community of Fairbourne, he added.

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