A trusted employee who fleeced her bosses out of almost £85,000 has walked free from court after being ordered to pay back £1,200.

Catherine Tate took advantage of her role at Weatherhead Construction to transfer cash into her personal account over a four-year period.

Teesside Crown Court heard how her scam only came to light when she was forced to own up after she repeatedly delayed filing the company’s annual accounts.

Nigel Soppitt, prosecuting, said initially company director Andrew Weatherhead agreed to pay the nursery fees for the 46-year-old when she returned from maternity leave as long as she deducted the sum from her salary.

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Tate faced a disciplinary hearing at the firm after she failed to deduct her own salary but was allowed to keep her job when she promised to pay back the money.

The judge heard how her scam came crumbling down in November 2022 when she failed to hand over the company’s accounts and a full audit was carried out.

Mr Soppitt said that showed the defendant had made unauthorised payments to herself over a four-year period. The first being in April 2017 and a total of £84,696.04 had been paid into her account.

In a business impact statement, the director said the theft hasn't impacted the daily running of the company as he spent around two months working on the accounts and found it difficult as they couldn't focus on other parts of the business.

The statement reads: "A trusted employee in a privileged position completely abused that trust for her own benefit which could have had dire consequences for the future of the company. Thankfully this hasn't happened but to have that trust thrown back in my face is devastating."

Tate, of Craven Vale, Guisborough, pleaded guilty to theft from an employer between 2017 and 2021.

Emma Williams, mitigating, said her client was suffering from a gambling addiction and post-natal depression at the time of her offending and had since found work after she was sacked.

She added: “She is deeply embarrassed of herself and accepts full responsibility.”

Miss Williams urged the judge to spare her from an immediate custodial sentence as she had a young child to care for.

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Recorder Felicity Davies said: “The effect on the company was fortunately not as significant as it may well have been because the firm was on good financial and steady footing.

“There was not an impact on the daily operations of the firm.”

Tate was sentenced to 18 months in custody suspended for two years and ordered to pay £1,200 in compensation to the firm.

The 46-year-old bookkeeper was given a three-month curfew between the hours of 7pm and 6am and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.