A woman who stole Christmas savings from her work colleagues has received a suspended jail sentence.
Claire Philomena Kirk, whose address was given on court papers as Briar Hill, Greysteel, pleaded guilty to stealing a total of £2,285 from nine of her colleagues between January and November last year.
Derry Magistrates Court heard the civil servant organised a Christmas savings club in her office and began collecting money from her colleagues in January.
In November she sent an email to her fellow employees claiming her car had been broken into in Altnagelvin Hospital and the money had been taken.
One of her colleagues asked for the crime incident number in relation to the theft, but Kirk never supplied it. Police confirmed at a later date that the car theft had never been reported by the 36-year-old.
During police interview, Kirk made full admissions to stealing the money. She said she had been in financial difficulties and took money throughout the year with the intention of paying it back before Christmas.
The 36-year-old also admitted coming up with the story about her car when she realised she wouldn’t be able to repay the money.
A defence barrister told the court Kirk was ‘desperate’ when she stole the money.
She added that her client was ‘deeply ashamed’ of what she did and is likely to lose her job as a result.
The barrister told the court Kirk has a teenage son and a three month old baby and has been unable to save up any money since the offences were detected.
She said Kirk’s family have cut off all contact with her because they are ‘disgusted by her actions’.
The barrister added that Kirk wished to apologise to her colleagues.
Suspending an eight month jail term for three years, District Judge Barney McElholm said the only thing saving Kirk from immediate custody was her three month old baby.
‘To deprive an eleven week old child of its mother is not something I’m prepared to do given she has no previous convictions’.
However, the judge said this was a ‘disgraceful way to treat colleagues’.
He said Christmas was ‘spoiled for these people and maybe their families as well’.
Judge McElholm said there was ‘no point’ in making a compensation order as Kirk will probably lose her employment and be unable to pay it.