A former financial administrator who stole over £130,000 from two west Belfast charities to fund her online gambling addiction is starting a six-month jail sentence.
Ann Marie Daye, from Summerhill Gardens in the city, was told her actions had a "significant impact" on the charities which work to support vulnerable people in the community.
The 50-year-old was handed an 18-month sentence at Belfast Crown Court after she admitted stealing £95,632.50 from Lenadoon Community Forum and a further £38,170 from Lenadoon Women's Group over a four-and-a-half year period, from around May 2009 to August 2013.
The court heard that as a result, a counselling service offered by the Forum "almost had to close down" and is now endeavouring to get "back on track."
Judge David McFarland told Daye she will spend six months in custody before being released on 12 months' supervised licence.
Passing sentence, the judge spoke of the "essential work" of the two charities, and said: "They have suffered a major financial consequence as a result of these thefts."
Prior to sentencing, Judge McFarland was told that concerns were raised by both charities in the summer of 2013.
Daye was employed as the financial administrator of the Forum from November 2006. She would produce apparently legitimate cheques to be signed by the directors, then make them out to herself or family members, and lodge them into her bank account, the court heard.
When she was arrested and interviewed on August 22, 2013, Daye admitted the theft. She told police she took the money to fund a gambling addiction, and also spoke of other stresses in her life.
The prosecutor said that whilst Daye had no criminal record, none of the money was recovered and there was no prospect of that. He also spoke of the "significant impact" the breach of trust had on the two charities.
Defence barrister Joe Brolly said Daye suffered from an addiction to online gambling and was now seeking treatment for it.
She came from a family that had never been in trouble, but Mr Brolly revealed that several incidents in her life had led to stresses and difficulties.
He also spoke of the "great shame" she felt, saying it was never her intention to hurt anyone. He added: "In August 2013 she wrote an open letter to all the staff at Lenadoon Community Forum, admitting that she had been taking money for several years, setting out what she had done and apologising."
Mr Brolly also revealed that when her offending came to light, Daye was relieved but also devastated. He also told the court his client is "now broke", adding that she has not offended since.
Sending Daye to jail, Judge McFarland told her she had committed a grave breach of trust.
He added: "You would have been aware of the role they (the charities) were providing in the community. By stealing from them, you were aware you were creating difficulties for the groups and potentially restricting activities they could undertake with vulnerable people in the Lenadoon area."