A 63-year-old former accounts manager who stole almost £37,000 from a Calderdale plastics firm has been given a 20-month suspended prison sentence.
Barbara Thompson, took the money from Norwood Green-based Tatra Plastic, over an 18-month period between May 2011 and December 2012.
But a judge at Bradford Crown Court was told that the married mother-of-one had already paid back most of the stolen money through the sale of her Wilsden home and an adjoining property.
Her lawyer Andrew Walker told Judge Colin Burn that his client had “lost everything” and the court heard that she was now living in a static caravan in Mill Lane, Leeds.
Prosecutor Patrick Gallagher told the court how Thompson, who had worked for Tatra for about eight years and was earning £44,000, was effectively the only person who could operate the firm’s computerised accounts system.
He said the offending came to light late last year when the company was shocked to receive a notification from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs saying they would be fined for underpayment of VAT.
Inquiries into the company’s finances revealed that Thompson had been transferring various amounts of money totalling about £25,000 into her own personal account and her son’s business account.
Mr Gallagher said Thompson had overpaid herself on four occasions and bizarrely she had also used the firm’s cash to unnecessarily pay the wages of a woman who assisted with some of her voluntary work.
The court heard that in total Thompson had stolen £36,966.71, but it was confirmed that the bulk of the money had now been repaid to the company and the outstanding amount was just £1,627.50.
Thompson pleaded guilty to two charges of theft from her employers when her case came before the magistrates last month.
Judge Burn said she had come extremely close to an immediate prison sentence, but he decided to suspend the jail term for two years after reading character testimonials and hearing about Thompson’s own medical difficulties.
Mr Walker said Thompson had become the “go to person” in her family and she could not stand by and watch her son’s business tumble down.
He said she had lent money to other relatives and friends and when she and her husband needed money they found their savings were depleted.
In a letter of apology to her former bosses Thompson said everything became too much for her.
Mr Walker said the loss of her good name and reputation could not be underestimated because she had done countless hours of community work.
“Now her reputation is absolutely in tatters,” he added. “She is unemployable and has basically lost everything.”
As part of the suspended sentence order Thompson, a well-known community volunteer in the Wilsden area of Bradford, will have to do 100 unpaid work for the community and she also has to pay £240 costs as well as the outstanding £1,627.50 compensation.
Judge Burn said it was rare for the crown court to have to sentence someone with a previously unimpeachable record of good works for the community.
“Obviously I have read the very supportive and praise-worthy letter from Baroness Eaton who obviously knows you and has spoken of your work tirelessly for the community,” said Judge Burn.
“It seems really Mrs Thompson as if you had got to the stage of doing so much good work for other people that you felt you were unable to say no to those who were in financial need even though that involved you committing serious criminal offences and a loss to your employer.”
But Judge Burn said Thompson had made drastic and devastating changes to her lifestyle in order to repay most of the money and that enable him to suspend the prison sentence.