A former pensions administrator has been sentenced after stealing £70,000 from Barnet Council’s pension fund.

Joseph Hutchinson-Clish, of Orchard Road in Darlington, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, suspended for two years, at a hearing at Harrow Crown Court on Tuesday (February 25).

He will also be subject to a 15-day rehabilitation order.

The 35-year-old pleaded guilty to abuse of position at an earlier hearing.

Hutchinson-Clish stole a total of £70,596.62 while working as a senior pensions administrator at the Darlington office of outsourcing firm Capita, which managed the council’s pension fund from 2013.

He made seven transactions into his own bank account over a period of more than two years, the court heard. He spent some of the stolen money on personal items and transferred some into an individual savings account (ISA).

Defence barrister Tristan Chaize argued against an immediate jail term, telling the court Hutchinson-Clish had a “low risk of further offending” and saying imprisonment would have an “extremely severe” impact on someone with “psychiatric difficulties”.

The judge, Recorder M Chawla QC, said it was “wholly unclear” why Hutchinson-Clish committed the fraud, and there was no evidence of “extravagant expenditure”.

He said: “It appears you used the money simply to supplement a lifestyle that was by no means extraordinary.

“In any event, it is clear you have found it impossible to accept to yourself, let alone to anyone else, why exactly it was you did what you did.”

Recorder Chawla said there was a “high culpability”, as the defendant had abused a position of “power, or trust and responsibility”, and the fraud was conducted “over a sustained period of time”.

But he said the defendant pleaded guilty at “almost the first opportunity”.

The judge added: “In terms of personal mitigation, I also accept that you have serious and recognisable medical conditions, which have required… urgent and intensive treatment – and yet require further urgent and intensive treatment.”

Barnet Council is working with Capita to recover the stolen money, some of which has been restrained in the defendant’s savings account “subject to ongoing proceeds of crime recovery action”.

The council recently ended Capita’s contract to manage the pension scheme and awarded it to Bradford City Council, which administers the West Yorkshire Pension Fund.