Visit Isle of Wight’s former finance director has today (Tuesday) pleaded guilty to stealing and defrauding nearly £34,000 from the tourism organisation.

Joanne Thornton, formerly of Freshwater and now listed at Snaithing Lane, Ranmoor, Sheffield, has been granted unconditional bail until an appearance at Isle of Wight Crown Court next month (16 November), when she will be sentenced.

Between April 2013 and March 2018, she committed fraud to the value of nearly £19,000 while working as a finance officer for Visit Isle of Wight.

Between April 2016 and April 2018, she stole nearly £15,000 from the organisation.

The 55-year-old, who is married to Visit Isle of Wight’s former Chief Executive David Thornton, heard she could spend between 18 months and 4 years in custody, during her appearance before Isle of Wight Magistrates this morning (Tuesday).

Defending Mrs Thornton, Barry Arnett told the court that she was a woman of ‘good character’ and said arrangements were being made to pay the money back, involving cashing in her pension pot.

In a statement, Visit Isle of Wight’s Will Myles said:

“I can confirm that following an internal audit earlier this year, some financial irregularities came to light which were referred to the Police. This has resulted in a Police investigation…

“I would like to assure WightBID levy payers that their BID contributions were unaffected and this money has been used in full to deliver the agreed WightBID plan. The team at Visit Isle of Wight is now working hard on preparing exciting marketing campaigns and other BID initiatives for the 2019 season.”