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Former Yarmouth mayor's forgery sentence

PUBLISHED: 09:27 22 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:09 30 June 2010

A former Great Yarmouth mayor was given a suspended nine-month jail sentence on Friday after admitting a string of forgeries including forging his ex-wife's signature so he could cash cheques from her bank account.

A former Great Yarmouth mayor was given a suspended nine-month jail sentence on Friday after admitting a string of forgeries including forging his ex-wife's signature so he could cash cheques from her bank account.

Ex-Conservative councillor Jonathan Russell, 42, pleaded guilty at Norwich Crown Court which heard that the charges dated to 2002-2007 and among the cheques he forged was one to give £350 to a woman with whom he had an affair after his marriage broke down.

He cashed forged cheques at Gorleston Conservative Club and used a forged cheque for a £410 charity football bid as well as using a cheque to pay for him and his wife to go to a dinner dance.

The court heard Russell's wife Tina was shocked when she found in April 2007 that her bank account was overdrawn and discovered he had been writing cheques in her name.

Jude Durr, prosecuting, said police were not called to investigate at the time but after the couple separated police were contacted and investigations revealed cheques to the value of £3,789 had been forged in his ex-wife's name.

Mr Durr said Russell, who claimed he was trying to juggle the couple's debts, had been unable to use his own account so used his wife's bank account instead, paying in regular sums of cash.

This was the second time Russell, of Salisbury Road, Yarmouth, had appeared in court charged with forgery. In 2005 he was given a 200-hour community service order and ordered to pay £2,261 costs after being convicted of passing a forged letter to try to help his in-laws sell their property.

Russell, who was mayor at that time, passed on a letter to an estate agent claiming outline plans had been submitted for Gorleston Trading Depot in Baker Street, which was owned by his in-laws at the time.

The then judge said Russell had betrayed the trust of those who had elected him and brought disgrace to the office of mayor.

On Friday Judge Paul Downes imposed a nine-month jail term suspended for 18 months and ordered him to pay £3,789 back to his ex-wife.

He was also ordered to do 200 hours' unpaid work and said it was a “complicated picture” adding: “You used her money without asking her, even if some of it was for her benefit.”

Simon Gladwell, for Russell said it was a “strange case.”

He said forging his wife signature was not for personal gain but to juggle their debts, adding: “It was not for personal gain but was done for Russell to struggle to cope with the debt he and his wife were both in.”

He said his wife suffered from depression and Russell looked after all the finances. Because of his own financial position he was unable to write cheques from his own account so he used his wife's account and also paid cash into her account.

The court heard Russell, who joined the council in 1994 representing Gorleston, and in 11 years sat on a number of committees, had now got a job in London earning £42,000 a year and taken on all the debts.

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