Ex-Visit Isle of Wight employee pleads guilty to fraud

A former Visit Isle of Wight employee pleaded guilty after being accused of fraud and theft against the company, totalling £33,874.

Joanne Thornton, 55, of Snaithing Lane, Ranmoor, Sheffield, appeared at the Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (October 16).

She pleaded guilty to committing fraud to the sum of £18,961 from the company account by abuse of position as finance officer between April 2013 and March 2018, contrary to the Fraud Act 2006.

She also pleaded guilty to a charge of theft by an employee, between April 2016 and April 2018, when she is said to have stolen cash to the value of £14,913, contrary to the Theft Act 1968.

Barry Arnett, defending Mrs Thornton told the court his client had no previous convictions and that she intends to pay the money back by the November 16 when she appears at the Isle of Wight Crown Court for sentencing.

He said: “She will be cashing in her pension pot.”

Mrs Thornton told the court she had moved to Sheffield last week. She is the wife of David Thornton, who was chief executive of Visit IW from October 2012 until he resigned in December 2017.

Afterwards, Kevin Daniells, owner of tourism website isleofwight.com, said: “I am pleased that Mrs Thornton has seen fit to plead guilty to the charges brought against her.  However, the situation with Mrs Thornton and the embezzlement of funds should bring into question the suitability of the permanent board members of Visit Isle of Wight.

“Why was it not spotted sooner? Yes, she did wrong and will ultimately pay the price, but whom on the current board and those members who left, such as her husband David Thornton, and chairman Simon Dabell, will stand up and say they did not have their fingers on the pulse when dealing with publicly raised money?”