Man gets six months jail for stealing school playground money

Neil Taylor of Campbell River has repaid the money to Discovery Elementary, but still received jail time

A man who stole more than $9,000 in donations to build a new school playground has been sentenced to six months jail.

Neil Taylor, 32, was sentenced Thursday in Campbell River provincial court. His lawyer, James Hormoth, had asked for a conditional sentence.

In July, Taylor pleaded guilty theft over $5,000 from the Discovery Elementary School Parent Advisory Committee.

His wife Jessica was by his side during Thursday’s hearing in Campbell River provincial court. She was also charged, in conjunction with her husband, with fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000.

However, charges against her were dropped by the prosecution in exchange for husband’s guilty plea and that didn’t sit well with other committee members, who believed she had far more to do with the thefts.

“They’re not especially happy with the way this has turned out,” Crown prosecutor David Fitzsimmons told the court.

Jessica Taylor was chair of the advisory committee and her husband was the treasurer when proceeds form 2011 fundraisers to build a new school playground never made it into the group’s bank accounts.

Neil Taylor later told police the family was running short on money for rent, bills and food, and used the donations to pay for those things. He had intended to repay the money, but never did until other committee members suspected something was amiss and he came clean with them which led to a lengthy RCMP investigation and charges.

Fitzsimmons told Judge Brian Saunderson this is not an uncommon crime. Neil Taylor has repaid the full amount, $9,189.25, but that’s not the point said the prosecutor.

“It’s not their money,” he said. “This is a crime committed after it’s been thought through.”

Fitzsimmons called for a jail sentence or a “rigorous community sentence order.” He added the primary consideration must be general deterrence, especially for others who are in positions of trust with community-raised donations.

Hormoth called on the judge to impose a community sentence, meaning that Neil Taylor would not go to jail. Hormoth described his client as a, “Dedicated husband and father. A hard-working man who fell on hard times.”

Neil Taylor is now working at a camp job and spends 20 days in Alberta and eight days off at home in Campbell River. There’s no word yet on if he will appeal the sentence.