FRAUDULENT scout leaders who stole tens of thousands of pounds from their troop and a small IT firm to pay off council bailiffs have been jailed.

From February 2014 to August 2016, treasurer Susan Gates took £10,489 from Warfield Scout Group, using cheques and a debit card to channel funds towards troop leader and unemployed boyfriend Iain Culverhouse.

Culverhouse used the money to clear old debts and shopped online.

When she feared being discovered, Gates, 37, paid back £1,300 from a Blue Solutions account, an IT firm in Wokingham which she had methodically plundered of £61,000 of company funds.

Stephen Dark, another scout leader, became suspicious and contacted police, but not before the couple, of Bayroad, Bracknell, had taken the troop and business to the brink of collapse.

In a witness statement read out at Reading Crown Court on November 23, Mr Dark said: “Funds were not available to cover payments, this damaged our reputation and meant we had to cancel a camp. This was a great disappointment to our cubs.

“Our group chairman has resigned and no one has stepped forward since.

“We may have to close down our beaver colony. The effort it has taken to set this up over the last five years for it just to be destroyed is sickening.”

Gates and Culverhouse wept in the dock as Blue Solutions director Darren Stokes said: “This case has had a devastating impact on our small business, financially and emotionally.

“We have had to work until midnight on some days and at weekends. Six months later and the work is still not completed. I was not able to attend my wife’s birthday due to the stress.

“This was a methodically planned, sustained attack on the hand that feeds. We are now much less trusting and flexible. This position of trust was systematically abused.”

Mr Stokes, who employed Culverhouse as a favour in 2016, also called the pair “well practised liars” who had shown “no remorse.”

Ayelen White, mitigating for Gates, said her client did not know of Culverhouse’s debts when they got together eight years ago.

She said: “She wasn’t aware until bailiffs came round and demanded to take her car.

"He had hid all the warning letters.”

Culverhouse, 36, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was unable to care for his nine-year-old son, leaving Gates to pay the bills and run the house.

The lawyer continued: “She couldn’t keep putting food on the table. The first payment from the company’s bank account was for a Tesco shop. Then it snowballed.”

Judge Ian Grainger was not convinced, sentencing Culverhouse to two years and Gates to two years and four months for fraud, with costs and compensation requests to be considered in March.

They will serve half their sentences in prison while Culverhouse’s son is looked after in a foster home.

Judge Grainger said: “The consequences of you both going into custody have been at the forefront of my mind, but despite giving the matter anxious thought I am not prepared to suspend the sentences.

“The consequences on (your son) must be on your consciences as must the consequences to the other people your awful offending has affected.”