AN Accrington postwoman who stole cash from cards she was meant to deliver has escaped an immediate prison sentence.

District Judge James Clark, sitting at Blackburn Magistrates Court, told Beverley Burnett the offences represented a significant breach of trust.

“There was a high degree of trust placed in you as part of a respected organisation in which people place their confidence,” he said.

“Birthday cards to children, husbands, sisters, wives, cards for people who had a new baby. These offences go beyond the loss of money or gift cards or whatever it may be. It also potentially placed suspicion on other members of the postal service.

“These offences were deliberate and a prison sentence is quite clearly justified,” said District Judge Clark.

“I recognise significant personal features, including your previous good character, which justify suspending that sentence.”

Burnett, 46, of Thornton Drive, Whitworth, pleaded guilty to four charges of theft and one of fraud by false representation involving the use of an Argos gift card which she had stolen from the mail.

She was jailed for 34 weeks suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 30 days' rehabilitation activity requirement.

Hayley Bennett, prosecuting for the Royal Mail, said the charges came to light when greetings cards which had been opened were found in her wheelie bin by a member of the public. She reported the find to the Royal Mail. More packages which had been opened were found in a postbox when it was being emptied.

An investigation led to surveillance on Burnett and three test packages were put in her bag for delivery on August 17.

She was seen to put something in a bin on her round and when this was recovered it was found to be the test packages which had been opened and the contents removed. All the missing items were recovered from Burnett.

Miss Bennett said while the investigation was ongoing the department was contacted by the police who were investigating the fraudulent use of a gift card. The phone number linked to the use of the card belonged to Burnett.

Miss Bennett said Burnett had agreed to the Royal Mail recovering the costs of the investigation and prosecution, £5,600, from her pension fund.

Gareth Price, defending, said at the time of the offences his client, who had no previous convictions, was under considerable stress, with family problems and health problems for her partner which meant he couldn’t work and that brought about financial difficulties.

“That doesn’t excuse her behaviour but perhaps explains why she carried out these thefts,” said Mr Price.

“She has been referred to the mental health services and her family is now fully aware of where she is. They are incredibly supportive of her.”