Son of treasurer who stole money from East Lothian church sells house to pay debt

A CHURCH treasurer who was jailed for stealing more than £70,000 from her local congregation has repaid the cash after her son was forced to sell his house.

Janet Farquhar has repaid more than £70,000 she stole from Chalmers Memorial Church in Port Seton.

Janet Farquhar banked £72,155.34 of church funds into her own account over eight years while she was in charge of finances at Chalmers Memorial Church, in Port Seton, East Lothian.

The pensioner was jailed for 18 months at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in April this year after she admitted embezzling the cash.

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But the 70-year-old crook was released from prison just weeks later pending an appeal against her sentence which is due to be heard at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

A proceeds of crime hearing regarding Farquhar’s case took place at the capital’s sheriff court last Friday and was continued to Monday.

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The court heard Farquhar has repaid £70,000 to the Church of Scotland which has been accepted as full payment of the sum embezzled by the callous treasurer.

Farquhar was due to sell her own family home in Cockenzie, East Lothian, to fund the repayment but the court was told the property currently has an Inhibition Order placed on it by the Crown and cannot be sold.

But the shamed OAP has managed to raise the cash after her son and daughter-in-law sold their own home to fund the repayment of the massive sum back to the Church of Scotland.

The hearing was continued to Monday for Sheriff Peter Braid to hear confirmation that the £70,000 has been received by the Church of Scotland.

The Crown confirmed the Church had been repaid in full and that the proceeds of crime action against Farquhar was being deserted.

On Friday, solicitor Ewan Gosney, told the court: “The money embezzled has been repaid in full. The money has been repaid by the sale of the accused’s son and the daughter-in-law’s property.

“That is where the money has come from because there is an Inhibition Order against the accused’s property and she is not in a position to sell.

“It is the intention that once the Inhibition [Order] is lifted and the property can be sold the proceeds will go back to her son and daughter-in-law.

“It is coming from her own funds, albeit indirectly.”

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: “We welcome the return of £72,000 of the funds that were taken from the congregation and will await with interest the result of justice running its course.”

Farquhar was appointed treasurer of the Chalmers Memorial Church in March 1999 and began pilfering thousands of pounds of kirk funds in 2008.

She paid cheques totalling £59,752.34 into her own Royal Bank of Scotland account and took the remaining £12,403 from church collections given by generous parishioners.

In jailing Farquhar, Sheriff Braid said: “This was a gross breach of trust, not only the trust placed in you by the Church of Scotland but also by your fellow congregation members.

“The sum you embezzled was more than £72,000 including more than £12,000 you failed to bank in church collections.

“There are mitigating factors including your age and state of health and I also accept there is a prospect of repayment and you are not likely to reoffend.

“However in my opinion there is no alternative to a custodial sentence.”