A VILLAGE sub-postmistress who stole more than £7,000 to pay credit card bills has avoided a prison sentence.
Kerry Hanson, 35, who took over Scissett sub-post office from her mother, told investigators she was "astounded" when they confronted her about the amount of money she had stolen over a seven-month period.
Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday that Hanson had manipulated the accounting system at the post office so she could steal hundreds of pounds each week.
Prosecutor Mushtaq Khokhar said Hanson maintained she had intended to repay the stolen money - which totalled £7,200 - but he pointed out that she had kept no record of the amounts.
The court heard that Hanson, of Manor Park, Barnsley, had run the post office for 10 years, but was now living on benefits and had debts totalling £38,000.
She pleaded guilty to three sample counts of thefts.
Barrister Caroline Wigin, for Hanson, said her client's father had already paid £7,200 to her solicitors and the stolen money could now be repaid.
Recorder Christopher Knox told Hanson: "It's obviously an absolute disaster for a woman like you, who has been a perfectly respectable member of the society up to the present time, to find yourself pleading guilty to dishonesty in the crown court."
He said that in normal circumstances people in her position would go to prison.
But he said he could take account of the mitigating features of her case.
The recorder added: "Fortunately the amount was picked up before it became so large that it would have been impossible to pass anything other than an immediate custodial sentence."
Hanson was made the subject of a two-year community rehabilitation order and ordered to do 100 hours' community work.
The £7,200 will also have to be repaid within seven days.
The Post Office is still trying to find someone to run the Scissett office.