A Unison branch treasurer who stole £61,000 from the union’s funds was jailed for a year and a half.
Johanna Moss, the treasurer and secretary of the West Lancashire branch of Unison, stole the money over a seven-year period by funnelling cheques and direct debits into her own account.
A judge condemned the 47-year-old’s actions as a “a gross breach of trust over a protracted period of time”.
Judge Norman Wright told her: “You have to cut your cloth and spend only what you can afford. You were lining your pockets from the union funds and stole monies that belonged to members of the union.
“The union’s ability to look after its members was compromised by your defraudation and will have a knock-on effect because members will think that when they pay their subscriptions that money is not safe because union officials such as yourself might be dipping their hands into their pockets.”
Liverpool Crown Court was told that alarm bells rang in 2012 after a cheque put through Moss’s own account into the Unison account was bounced by NatWest.
The bank made some checks on the account and then involved Unison.
An audit revealed that there had been multiple transactions between March 2007 and February last year.
A building society savings account in which there should have been between £7,000 and £8000 but the audit revealed it contained just £288.
Moss, of Delph Drive, Burscough, admitted the various thefts when confronted by the union and said she had taken money to cover her own financial hardships.
James Smith, defending Moss, said: “She was almost relieved when she was finally caught.
“It was unusual that her offending went undetected for so long because much of it was direct debits and payments into her own account which any audit would have revealed.”
Mr Smith said Moss was remorseful and had paid back the stolen money.
“She will forever be in the position of regretting her actions,” he said.
Moss, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to theft between March 1, 2006 and February 28 last year.
In a statement Unison said their funds were to benefit its members who paid subscriptions.
It read: “By taking money which did not belong to here to fund her own lifestyle she deprived others members.
“As a result its ability to defend the interests of its members has been compromised and so has its members trust in the branch to represent their interest and this can take a long time to repair.”