A THIEF who has stolen almost £47,000 from three different employers has been spared jail for the third time.

Karen Irvine, of Spinners Green, Bracknell, stole £8,000 from a Surrey-based catering company over a period of 14 months between 2018 and 2019.

This was her third such offence, having stolen money from HP and DHL in the 2000s.

After being handed a suspended sentence, a judge warned Irvine this was her “last chance” and that the “sword of Damocles” was “hanging over her head”.

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The 50-year-old was employed as a catering manager by Armarak Ltd, a catering company that supplied food for employees at Dell in Bracknell.

In charge of finances in her role, Irvine was able to pocket £8,000 through swapping cash for coins needed for change.

After almost 14 months of clawing the cash from her employers, the Bracknell resident was caught out by a co-worker in December 2019.

She was arrested the same month and admitted to stealing the money in a police interview.

Prosecutor Laura Hollingbery said her theft took “significant planning” and constituted a “significant breach of trust and responsibility.”

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The court heard how Irvine made withdrawals worth £7,000 from company credit cards while working for HP in 2005.

Three years later, she made £32,000 of personal purchases on company credit cards while she was employed by DHL.

Defending, Tom Blackburn highlighted these previous offences were more than a decade old and should not aggravate her sentence.

He added that Irvine was “under a lot of financial pressure” at the time of her theft and a court heard she was going through difficult family issues.

“If she was not under this pressure she may not have committed these offences", Mr Blackburn said.

The defence counsel told the court that Irvine is a carer for her daughter and that she is back in employment -- albeit in a position where she cannot access the company’s funds.

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Recorder Dyer QC, sentencing, told Irvine she presented a “difficult problem for the court.”

“This is not something you have never done before”, he added.

“You say you were under financial pressure and I can imagine that you were.

“You have shown some remorse. It has been two years since this happened and there has been no reoffending since then.

“You have agreed to pay the £8,000 back. Had you not done that I might have taken a different view.”

Mr Dyer handed Irvine a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

He said he came to this decision because of the age of her previous offences “given they are more than a decade old”, and because she was under family and financial pressure at the time of the offending.

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However, he warned her: “This is your last chance.

“The sword of Damocles is hanging over your head.

“I don’t see any court in the future giving you another suspended sentence.”

Irvine was told she was free to go following her sentencing at Reading Crown Court on Thursday, October 7.

She will have to pay back the £8,000 she stole and was ordered to carry out 50 hours of unpaid work.