Insurance broker David Barnard, former chairman of Policy Shop, is due to be sentenced at Cambridge Crown court today (Thursday) after being found guilty of stealing tens of thousands of pounds from business funds.

Barnard transferred money from creditors' accounts to a business account over a period of more than a year and made frequent cash withdrawals.

A jury found Barnard, from Halesworth, guilty on Saturday June 18 of two charges of fraudulent trading between September 1995 and February 1997.

The former chairman of Policy Shop, which specialised in insuring minibuses from its base in Framlingham, was acquitted on a third count of the charge.

During the course of his trial, it was alleged that 52-year-old Barnard had used money stolen from creditors' accounts to pay off personal debts, including his children's public school fees and rent on the family home.

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

Prosecutor Anthony Bates told the court Barnard had used premiums as a general fund to “dip into as and when he needed to”.

Barnard began his career as an insurance broker in London in 1968 and has more than 25 years of experience in the field.

He formed Policy Shop in November 1994, but it collapsed in 1997 with debts of more than £176,000.

Barnard denied all three charges of fraudulent trading. He told the jury it was common practice in the insurance business to use client premium accounts “to utilise company cash flow” and said the withdrawals were made to pay for office expenditures such as stamps and car hire.

Barnard also said he could not recall a single occasion when a cheque was written for his personal benefit.

Speaking after the case, Andrew Strickland, a partner with chartered accountants Scrutton Bland, said he felt sorry for Barnard's fellow directors “who have lost either a livelihood or a lot of money”.

Strickland told the jury he had advised Barnard not to use his clients' monies to pay the debts.

His firm had been accountants for the Policy Shop for one year, but the business relationship ended due to outstanding bills.

On a personal level, Mr Strickland said he had liked Barnard, adding: “He is a very difficult person to dislike. He's a very likeable person and that's the view one always has of David.”

As a businessman, Mr Strickland said he found Barnard “personable and jocular” in their dealings.

But he admitted he could never work out whether the problems Barnard found himself in had sprung from him being “incurably optimistic” or not caring.

“I have never been able to work that out in my own mind,” he said.

Nicholas Marden, a director with the Policy Shop, said after the trial: “The police have been absolutely marvellous in this case.” He declined to comment further.