A YOUTH worker stole about £5,000 from the project at which she worked.
Ashleigh Lawson was originally accused of stealing £23,000, but prosecutors accepted her guilty plea to the lesser amount.
Durham Crown Court heard Lawson, 33, put money from the Durham City Centre Youth Project through her personal account and some of the transactions were honest.
“The project did not have a debit card on its account,” said prosecutor Amanda Rippon. “They only had a cheque book, so the defendant thought it easier to pay for things using her account, which had a debit card.
“Going through her statement, it is impossible to say which transactions were genuinely carried out on behalf of the project and which were not.
“It is with this in mind we are prepared to accept the guilty plea to the lesser amount.”
The court heard the fraud was revealed when the bank wrote to the project to ask why there was no money in its account.
Lawson, 33, of Cooper Square, Gilesgate, Durham City, admitted theft, fraud and false accounting between June 2008 and June 2010. She was of previous good character.
Robert Adams, defending, said in mitigation: “Ms Lawson was an excellent youth worker, but a very poor accountant.
“She was in financial difficulties and while many of the transactions were straightforward ones on behalf of the project, she did take some of the money for herself.
“Ms Lawson made very little from this offending and there is certainly no evidence of any high living.”
The Recorder, Mr Darren Preston, sentenced Lawson to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months and a night-time curfew of three months.
“I accept this defendant was good at the main part of her job,” said the recorder. “She did not set out to be dishonest and I think it unlikely she will be before the court again.”