Balfron teacher stole from school and colleagues

Stirling Sheriff Court
Stirling Sheriff Court

A teacher who raided funds for school trips and stole from colleagues to fund a drink habit could be facing jail.

Social science mistress Jennifer Ferguson (35) raided desks and drawers to fund a bottle-a-day vodka habit.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that a series of petty thefts had been taking place at 950-pupil Balfron High School in West Stirlingshire, one of the top State schools in Scotland.

Then in June 2015, Ferguson was caught on CCTV going into the school over the weekend and leaving again.

Officials investigated and found £195 of school trip money was found missing from a colleague’s desk.

Trays had been moved around to get at the cash underneath.

Police were called in, and Ferguson was arrested on the Monday morning outside the Spar supermarket in Balfron, before she could re-enter the school.

Local bobby PC Steven Graham, 43, said it had been decided to detain Ferguson outwith the school “to save her embarrassment”.

She was placed in a police van, and taken “upset and tearful” to Greenock Police Station in Renfrewshire.

PC Graham said: “She went from initially denying the allegations to admitting them.”

He said his colleague PC Derek Burn had asked her: “How do you feel about what you have done?”

Ferguson replied: “Disgusted.”

PC Graham added: “She was embarrassed at what she had done to her colleagues.”

PC Burn said: “She gave ‘special knowledge’ admissions in relation to some of the thefts.

“She was on her way to teach pupils when she was stopped, and said she had drunk a bottle of vodka in the last 24 hours.”

Ferguson, of Hardgate, West Dunbartonshire, pleaded guilty to four charges of stealing £255 of money, some belonging to colleagues and some collected for school trips, from various rooms at Balfron High School between October 24, 2014, and June 15, 2015.

She had initially denied the charges, with her solicitor, Paul Reid, arguing that her police interview had been unfair.

But she changed her plea after a so-called “trial-within-a-trial” and legal argument that stretched over two days.

Sheriff Wyllie Roberston deferred sentence until March 21 for background reports.

Mr Reid said he would give his speech in mitigation at the sentencing hearing, but added that Ferguson had been, and still was, suffering from anxiety and alcohol problems.

Warning Ferguson to co-operate with social workers, Sheriff Robertson told her: “If on the next occasion when you come to court, you say you have heard nothing [from the social work department] but done nothing about it, other procedural avenues may have to be addressed.”