A woman who embezzled over £5,000 in public money while she worked for Shetland Islands Council has been spared a custodial sentence.
Diane Pottinger, 29, of Hillhead in Lerwick was instead ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work when she appeared at the town’s sheriff court yesterday.
Sentence on Pottinger was previously deferred for background reports to be compiled after she admitted helping herself to a four-figure sum over a 17-month period between 1st April 2011 and 1st September the following year.
She had initially taken £20 to help cover living expenses while she was working as an administrator at the council’s infrastructure department.
But she caved into temptation after the initial theft went undetected and carried on pilfering. In total she embezzled £5,089. She has since lost her job at the council department. All the money she took had been paid back by the time she first appeared in the dock before sheriff Philip Mann.
The council subsequently accepted it should have had better training in place.
In court yesterday defence agent Christopher Maitland said a community payback order may have been “appropriate” in Pottinger’s case.
Sheriff Mann warned Pottinger risked going into custody if she stepped out of line again.
He said he realised the money which had been “misappropriated” had been fully repaid, and recalled what had been said previously about a shortfall in training at the council department.
But he warned Pottinger: “That is no excuse for this offence. There is no call for being dishonest, however having regard to the social work report I’m satisfied I can deal with this by imposition of a community payback order.
“I will impose a community payback order as a direct alternative to a custodial sentence.”
He ordered the work be completed within nine months, and that Pottinger abide by the terms of a 12-month supervision requirement.
For comprehensive coverage of this week’s court, see tomorrow’s paper.