A MOTHER-OF-FOUR who stole £20,000 from her employers after getting into debt has avoided going to jail.
Mandy Duke was the manager of Grande Wines in Waterlooville when she helped herself to the takings over a three-week period.
The off licence was nearly forced to close because of the financial trouble she caused.
But after hearing how she suffered depression and was desperate for money at the time and that she has since repaid all the stolen cash, a judge at Portsmouth Crown Court agreed not to jail her.
The 48-year-old was caught out when senior managers noticed discrepencies in the takings in December last year.
A meeting was arranged between senior staff and Duke but before it took place she rang her boss and confessed to stealing the money, saying: ‘I’ve done something stupid’.
Unyime Davies, defending, said Duke had left her husband and started seeing another man who took advantage of her money.
‘Mrs Duke has made some very poor decisions in her life,’ she said.
‘She had very little way of supporting herself.
‘She found herself in rather a lot of debt and rather a desperate state.’
After the first time she took the money Duke began gambling to be able to pay it back but ended up getting in more debt.
‘The desperate point that Mrs Duke was at at the time meant she was not thinking clearly,’ Ms Davis said.
‘Things spiralled out of control.
‘She has learnt a very painful lesson.’
Sentencing her Recorder Frank Privett said the offence warranted a prison term but he said rather than send her to jail he could suspend the sentence.
‘You were trusted in your job,’ he said.
‘You abused that trust by taking your employers’ money and that built up to a point where you had taken so much money that you endangered the business and put other people’s jobs at risk because the business was at risk itself.
‘You were making not just poor decisions but catastrophically poor decisions.’
Duke was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and told to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
She will have 12 months of supervision from the probation service and must attend a pathways to change course to help her stay out of trouble.
Recorder Privett said: ‘If you commit no further offences for two years you will hear no more of it.’