A north Belfast woman narrowly avoided prison yesterday after she admitted the theft of over £30,000 from a shopping centre fashion outlet.
Ann Kane (51), from Silverstream Park, was told by a judge that she will carry out 100 hours community service and be on probation for 18 months for her crimes, instead of going to prison for six months.
After she accepted the combination order, Judge Neil Rafferty QC told Kane that the Probation Service provided support for defendants suffering from depression and low mood which had led to her offending.
Kane had pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position by pocketing £30,783.40 in 16 counts of theft.
Prosecution barrister Simon Jenkins said Kane's offending had spanned almost four years from August 2014 to April 2017 when she voided sales on tills at Vogue fashion shop at the Abbey Centre in north Belfast while working as a shop assistant.
He told Belfast Crown Court that Kane's offending came to light when a customer returned to the store in May 2017 having received the wrong receipt for an item she had purchased.
Mr Jenkins said the incident sparked an "immediate investigation" by the store which revealed Kane's modus operandi had been carried out "multiple times".
The prosecution barrister said an analysis of computer records showed Kane had carried out the sales voids using her unique log-in code.
And CCTV footage also showed Kane going to the store safe after each voided sale and "removing monies from the safe and placing it in her purse".
The court heard over the course of three police interviews, Kane consistently denied that she had taken the money.
When the CCTV footage of her taking money from the safe was shown to her, she suggested she "was swapping a £5 note for coins".
Defence barrister Danielle McMahon said Kane had no previous criminal convictions but as a result of her guilty pleas to fraud and theft "she may never work again".
Ms McMahon added that a medical report stated that Kane was suffering from "depression and low mood" during her offending.
He added: "This is a clear case of where somebody needs help and statutory supervision."