‘Betrayal’of friend by St Albans woman who stole £3,300

The thief was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court

The thief was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A St Albans woman caught ‘red-handed’ on CCTV stealing money from her best friend of 25 years has been labelled ‘mean and greedy’ by a judge.

Suzanne Smallwood, who stole £3,300, was told by Judge Stephen Warner yesterday (Thursday) that she deserved to go to prison.

But, he ended up giving the 44 year old of Chiltern Road a 10-month jail sentence suspended for 21 months, and explained that the public and her victim would be better served if she paid the money back and carried out unpaid work.

Smallwood pleaded guilty to committing theft on June 27 last year. She maintained she had only taken £400 on one occasion. However, at a separate hearing, the judge ruled that she had taken the full £3,300.

The mother-of-two was caught after her friend’s husband installed a CCTV camera in a bedroom after money had been taken from a safe, St Albans Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Andrea Scott-Lynch said Smallwood had taken keys from the victim’s handbag when she was out.

The CCTV recorded her holding a tea towel, to avoid leaving fingerprints, opening the safe and taking the cash.

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Ms Scott-Lynch added: “There were numerous occasions when cash was taken. We are not able to say how many. It was a breach of a high degree of trust between friends. In a personal statement, the victim says she felt betrayed by her best friend of 25 years.”

In addition, £100 was taken from the friend’s handbag.

Ms Scott-Lynch said Smallwood, who has no previous convictions, has since paid back £600.

Hayley Brickel, defending, said: “It has been a sobering experience for Ms Smallwood. She feels she has let everyone down. She has lost a long-standing friendship and has lost her good character.”

She said Smallwood, who is a carer for a disabled child, had credit card debts totalling £9,000.

Apart from passing a 10-month sentence suspended for 21 months, Judge Warner said that Smallwood must carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work and attend the 40 days’ rehabilitation activity requirement.

She has 18 months to repay the remaining £2,700 at a rate of £150 a month.

He told her: “You were caught red-handed. This was a mean and cynical offence committed against someone who trusted you. It was motivated by greed. But for the camera, you would not have been caught.”