A SCHOOL office worker who stole more than £1,000 from petty cash has been spared jail.

Carrie Smith was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid community work by Judge Timothy Stead yesterday at Bolton Crown Court.

The court had heard how Smith, of Doncaster Close, Little Lever, worked as a finance assistant at Smithills School when she took the cash in several amounts over a period of more than a year.

She was finally caught when her superior saw her acting suspiciously near a charity bucket in December last year.

An audit revealed money was missing from school petty cash tins.

Smith was sacked and the police were informed.

The 40-year-old, who had a position of trust in the school, initially denied three counts of theft.

But last month her trial was halted on its second day after she changed her plea to guilty of the theft of £1,149.61.

Recorder Timothy Stead ordered that the two further counts of the theft of £149.27 and £426.05 be ordered to lie on file.

Judge Stead said he had been impressed by the letter of apology Smith has written to him, which he said he regarded as being sincere.

“I take the view that when you say how sorry and ashamed you are, you mean it,” he told her.

But he added: “It is a great shame she didn’t make admissions sooner than she did.”

Peter Cunliffe, defending, said Smith was £4,000 in debt but hoped to find work with a temping agency.

Judge Stead said that although he was making no order for her to repay the money she stole it did not prevent the local authority from recovering the cash from her.