CHARITY manager Alison Magill, who took £1,600 of funds without permission, has won a tribunal case for unfair dismissal but will not receive compensation.

Ms Magill, of Herd Street, Marlborough, was told she had won on a legality but was ‘misguided’ to think she had not done anything wrong when she took the money from the New Road Centre in Marlborough, which cares for people with disabilities.

She admitted writing the cheque to herself in 2012 when she was in financial difficulty, but forgot to pay it back for more than a year until the charity’s treasurer noticed it missing and questioned her.

She told the hearing at The Crescent Centre in Bristol, she did not believe she had done anything wrong, as previously she loaned £350 of the charity’s money to help former deputy manager Jane Baldwin move house in 2011.

But the trustees were not aware of this until Ms Magill told them at her disciplinary hearing in January 2014.

They said the employee of 12 years had abused her position of trust and fired her for gross misconduct.

Ms Magill, who was signed off sick by a doctor days before the discovery, argued she did not do it secretly and it was not her fault if the trustees had not noticed, because she could not 'tell them to perform their duties'.

Andrew Ross, the charity’s former treasurer and a Marlborough town councillor, realised money was missing when he was doing the end of year accounts in December 2013, which he and Ms Magill did together, the hearing was told last week.

Ms Magill, who chose to represent herself at the tribunal, claimed Mr Ross had known about the informal loan to Ms Baldwin in 2011 and added: “I genuinely didn’t realise the seriousness of it because it had happened before.”

Several days later an emergency committee meeting was held between the five trustees to discuss the findings and suspension of Ms Magill. The decision to dismiss her was made in January following a disciplinary hearing.

However, Ms Magill claims the suspension letter inviting her to the disciplinary hearing, only stated it was a meeting and she did not realise the hearing could result in her dismissal, so was not prepared.

Ms Magill felt the hearing was biased and appealed against the trustees' decision, but it was upheld by an independent employment consultant.

Christa Christensen, who chaired the tribunal, agreed the letters did not clearly state the disciplinary hearing could lead to Ms Magill’s dismissal.

She said there was no written evidence to say an investigation had taken place to support the allegation and was satisfied she had been unfairly dismissed due to these two ‘procedure irregularities’.

However, she said Ms Magill would not be awarded any compensation and was at fault to keep denying she had done anything wrong, and had taken no steps to pay money back until it was pointed out to her. In January 2014 she repaid £1,000.

This gave the charity enough reason to dismiss her for gross misconduct.

Ms Magill was, however, awarded £476.74 in accrued holiday pay.

'We're glad it's all behind us', say trustees

THE trustees of The New Road Centre charity in Marlborough are turning over a new leaf now the tribunal is behind them.

Debbie Bond, who took over as chairman of the trustees last January, says they are delighted the tribunal supported their decision to dismiss Alison Magill for gross misconduct and they are now looking to the future.

She said: “We are pleased that the judge recognised that although procedurally, we may have made some minor errors, the decision to dismiss her was justified.

“The trustees have since reviewed all policies and procedures to ensure that such misappropriation of funds can never be allowed to happen again.

"We are grateful to the police, social services and local community for the tremendous support we have received in the last 18 months.”

The charity, in New Road next to Christchurch, provides day care for nearly 30 adults with a range of physical, learning and mental disabilities and provides a safe and friendly environment for them to socialise, take part in activities and have a cooked meal. It alsos arrange day trips so that the members can enjoy going out as a group.

"Some of our clients are very lonely and isolated and the centre is a vital source of social inclusion for them," Mrs Bond said.

“We have a team of staff and volunteers who aim to provide a fun environment where our clients can relax and feel welcome."

Recently, Christopher Scrivens who is blind and one of the people the charity looks after, took part in a sponsored walk in Devizes organised by the Devizes Physical Handicapped and Able Bodied (PHAB) Club.

He raised £258 for The New Road Centre and proudly presented a cheque with the money to the charity last week.

Mrs Bond added: “We are relieved that this dark cloud has been lifted and can now concentrate on providing first class care to the members of the New Road Centre.”