A POLICE clerk decided to steal lost property at the station where she worked because she was desperately short of money.

The 21-year-old, who worked for Cleveland Police, pilfered money and goods before her thefts were discovered.

Kate Hanley, 21, pleaded guilty to theft when she appeared at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.

Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said she helped herself on five occasions, taking goods and cash totalling nearly £600.

The thefts were discovered following the disappearance of a mobile phone which she claimed had been taken away by an unknown officer at Redcar police station.

But phone records showed that it was being used to call her relatives and friends. She eventually admitted that she had taken the mobile phone, blaming it on the breakdown of her romance.

A check on the property register showed goods had been signed out to bogus owners who knew nothing about the property when their names and addresses were verified.

Dan Cordey, defending, said: "She is a decent young woman who found herself in a very vulnerable position, in financial difficulties, and access to money became a temptation to her. When the police questioned her she lied because she had such great difficulty in owning up to and accepting."

Hanley, formerly from Middlesbrough, but now living in her native Manchester, was ordered to do 200 hours community punishment and to pay £569 compensation and £250 prosecution costs after she admitted stealing the mobile phone, three purses with a total of £434 in cash and a wrist watch in May and June last year.

Judge Leslie Spittle told her she had narrowly escaped going to jail, adding: "You created a fictitious police officer and you therefore must have created a degree of suspicion."