Office worker lost job after helping herself to employer’s funds

A woman embezzled more than £5,000 in public money after her initial pilfering “snowballed” out of control.

Diane Pottinger, 29, of Hillhead in Lerwick helped herself to the money while she worked at the SIC’s infrastructure department.

Pottinger initially took £20 to help cover living costs. But she caved into temptation after the first theft went undetected and took more over a 17-month period.

Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday was told Pottinger had lost her job with the local authority after the offences came to light. She had worked there since 2001.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said temptation was too big a hurdle for Pottinger to resist. Suspicions eventually arose and the council launched its own investigation, with which Pottinger co-operated.

Defence agent Neil McRobert said Pottinger had repaid “every single penny”.

“The figure referred to in the complaint has been repaid with no loss to the public purse,” he told the court.

Mr McRobert said Pottinger had been working for the council since she was 17 and had enjoyed an “unblemished” work record until the offence occurred.

It started after Pottinger was given the role of collecting payments for goods bins, bags or other items.

“The council would seem to acknowledge that, in retrospect, that Miss Pottinger had not received training in relation to the handling of money, and more supervision and guidance should have been given,” Mr McRobert said.

He added Pottinger had been in an “abusive” relationship with her unemployed partner, which led to financial difficulties.

He said she initially took £20 and had intended to replace the funds. However the money was not repaid and temptation took over.

Mr McRobert highlighted a report from a council auditor which showed it was not a well thought out theft, with Pottinger displaying “no attempt to cover her tracks.”

“It was only a matter of time before she was found out,” the report concluded.

The court heard Pottinger was “remorseful” and “extremely apologetic”.

Mr McRobert said it was “significant” that the money had been repaid. He stressed Pottinger had no previous record.

Sheriff Philip Mann said he was unlikely to impose a custodial sentence on Pottinger. However, he deferred sentence until next month for background reports to be compiled.

Pottinger was ordained to appear again on 18th April.


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