A woman who stole more than £17,000 from Peterborough City Council while working for the authority has avoided a custodial sentence as an ‘act of mercy’ by a crown court judge.
Mum of four Tracey Harber (45) was working as an administrator at the Kingfisher Centre in Bretton in 2014 when she started taking the money.
In a period lasting just over a year, she took a total of £17.416, when instead of taking cash from the centre - which helps adults with physical or learning disabilities - to the bank, she pocketed the cash herself, using it to pay for nights out and clothes.
On Monday Harber, of Toftland, Orton Malborne, appeared at Peterborough Crown Court, where she was given a 20 month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 175 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Gareth Hawksworth, sentencing, said he was granting Harber ‘an act of mercy,’ after reading references describing her as a hard working, honest woman.
Gemma Stokes, prosecuting, told the court Harber continues to deny the offence when questioned by police.
She said: “When she was asked about the extra payments into her account, she said is came from car boot sales.”
Thomas Buxton, defending, said Harber was remorseful, and had been shamed and humiliated by the experience.
A Peterborough City Council spokesman said procedures had been changed to prevent similar offences being carried out in the future.
He said: “We have worked closely with Cambridgeshire Police since we uncovered and alerted them to the offence and throughout the subsequent investigation.
“Ultimately Mrs Harber stole money that would have been used to support the most vulnerable in our city and we are pleased with the judgement that she must repay these funds.
“Our own payment system was changed at the time of the fraud being uncovered and the vast majority of people are now invoiced for payment.”
Harber, who pleaded guilty to one count of theft at a previous hearing, will also pay all the £17,416 back, starting with a £3,000 payment this week, and £500 monthly sums thereafter.
She was also ordered to take part in 15 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.