A PAYROLL worker who stole £45,000 from her employer has been spared prison after a judge was told her vulnerable eight-year-old son would be taken into care if she were jailed.
Sheffield Crown Court heard Sarah Brown defrauded Thurcroft-based vehicle hire firm TG Commercials of the five-figure sum while working as accounts manager in 2017.
The court was told that Brown (39) had been in an abusive relationship and her then-partner pocketed the majority of the cash, with Brown’s share coming to just under £14,000.
Judge Michael Slater stopped short of imposing an immediate prison sentence after hearing from Brown’s barrister, Ms Isobel Thomas, that the defendant’s son suffered from severe separation anxiety.
With no family to support or care for him, Ms Thomas said, the boy would be taken into local authority care if his mother was jailed.
Judge Slater sentenced Brown, who now lives in the Scottish borders, to two years in prison suspended for two years.
The court heard she had been responsible for TG Commercials’ accounts and online transactions.
A review of the accounts showed she had committed fraud by overpaying herself, as well as paying money into two other accounts, including one in the name Peter Holland.
“She bought herself a vehicle for which she paid £13,945, and then traded that in for another one,” said Ms Bev Wright, prosecuting.
When interviewed by police, Brown initially pointed the finger at colleagues, which the judge said was an aggravating feature of the case.
Ms Wright said the company’s owner, a Mr Gaskin, felt he could no longer trust anyone and had now installed CCTV at the office.
Ms Thomas, mitigating, said Mr Holland was Brown’s then-partner.
“There was abuse within the relationship and it’s against that background that the offending took place,” said Ms Thomas. “Miss Brown does not seek to justify her actions.
“She takes full responsibility for the way she has behaved. She is extremely remorseful and ashamed.
“Her benefit was restricted to the purchase of the car, and the rest of the money went to Mr Holland.
“She has not had an easy upbringing and suffered physical and emotional abuse in the past. She was in an abusive relationship with her ex-partner for 13 years.”
Ms Thomas said Brown, who admitted fraud, had secured a job as a window dresser her move to the Scottish borders was “a fresh start”.
Sentencing Brown, Judge Slater said he accepted the remorse she had expressed was heartfelt.
He said Brown had been “coerced by your then unwilling lodger into stealing this money and giving most of the money to his benefit” — adding: “You were particularly vulnerable and, in my judgement, still are.
“You had had an abusive relationship for a number of years before this occurred.
“You were further charged with sole responsibility for an eight-year-old son you have effectively brought up alone with no family support.”
The judge called Brown’s offending “a serious abuse of trust”, adding: “The prosecution points out your denials not only brought further delays but also led to other employees being suspected.”
But Judge Slater said he had decided to suspend her jail sentence after concluding Brown’s son having to go into care would be “devastating” for both him and his mother.