A trusted insurance company boss who stole his clients' money to pay for his children to attend a top public school is now serving a jail sentence.

David Barnard, 53, of Halesworth, took cash from the accounts of the firm's creditors and spent it on items such as rent for his family home, and his children's fees at Framlingham College, a court heard.

But his pattern of deceit was uncovered by detectives, and he was jailed for nine months after being found guilty of two charges of fraudulent trading.

Judge John Sennitt, at Cambridge Crown Court, conceded Barnard, of previous good character, had not used the cash to live “riotously”.

He said: “I appreciate that the consequences of these convictions are no doubt disastrous to you and to your family.”

Barnard was chairman of the Policy Shop Ltd, Framlingham, when the incidents took place – between September 1995 and February 1997.

The court heard he had transferred money from creditors' accounts to a business account, making frequent cash withdrawals.

Between September 1995 and November 1996, he made withdrawals and transfers totalling £75,000.

The court acknowledged that some of the money involved would have been used for Barnard's legitimate company purposes.

Barnard was also accused of using clients' money to pay for the company's overheads – including advertising, a hotel bill and wages – and writing personal cheques in the company's name.

Despite his efforts to keep it afloat, the company collapsed in February 1997, with debts of more than £176,000.

The jury was told of a letter from Anthony Strickland, an accountant for the company, in which he advised Barnard not to use his clients' money to pay the debts.

But Anthony Bate, prosecuting, said he did not follow that advice.

Judge John Sennitt sentenced him to nine months on each of the two convictions, to run concurrently.

Barnard had denied three charges in total – he was acquitted by the jury on one count but found guilty on two at the end of an earlier ten-day trial at Bury Saint Edmunds Crown Court.

He was also disqualified from being a company director for five years.

At yesterday's hearing, Mr Bate, prosecuting, acknowledged Barnard had been of previous good character and had no previous disqualification orders.

Martyn Levett, defending, presented 17 character references to the judge, and pointed out that the jury had reached a 10-2 majority verdict.

He said his client was now employed at the Minibus and Coach Club, Framlingham, where he was involved in marketing, but was not a director.

He pointed out in mitigation that money was not used on “fancy restaurants and fancy holidays”.

He said the prosecution case was that “there was a human reason for this dishonesty”.

Mr Levett added: “He's actually aware of his wrongdoing. My client has lost everything.” He had lost his family home, and his wife had lost her jewellery.

Being brought so low was a “quite shocking experience”, and his client had gone through a period of depression.”

“He has no wish to become a director again,” he said.

Judge Sennitt said Barnard had not deliberately set out to defraud when he set up the company, but there came a time when he must have known “full well” the company could not be turned round.

“You acted dishonestly at that time,” he said. He pointed out that a letter from his accountant had been a “stark warning”to him.

“The insurance business relies heavily on trust,” he said.

  • Sean Byrne, senior partner of personal lines intermediary The Policy Shop Insurance Services of Coventry, has asked us to point out that his company has no connection with the minibus insurer Policy Shop.

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