AN ACCOUNT clerk’s theft of more than £38,000 from family firm led to employees being made redundant, a court heard.

Lisa Burrows was caught two years after leaving trailer manufacturing company Indespension following a dispute the company had with British Gas over unpaid bills.

Bolton Crown Court heard how the 36-year-old mum-of-two worked in the accounts department of the Horwich firm for 14 months and it was her responsibility to pay suppliers by bank transfer.

But Michael Goldwater, prosecuting, said on 21 occasions between April 13 and December 2 2011, she siphoned money off into two of her own accounts and a third in the name of her partner, Paul Jolley, who was unaware of her thefts.

Mr Goldwater added she transferred amounts ranging from £363 to just under £4,000 before she left the company in December 2011 over an unrelated matter.

She covered her tracks by recording the money as having been paid to British Gas, EDF Energy and United Utilities.

The theft of a total £38,689 went unnoticed at the firm, whose manufacturing process is energy intensive, until the appointment of financial director Heidi Riley.

Mr Goldwater said the company had been disputing British Gas claims that they had not been paid until Ms Riley noticed the diverted payments and the police were called.

Burrows, aged 36, of Cunningham Road, Westhoughton, was arrested and admitted fraud when she appeared before Bolton magistrates.

She told police her family was in debt after her partner was made redundant in 2010.

Mr Goldwater said she had initially taken the money to pay houshold bills then she forgot to change the payments back to the correct ones.

He added that Burrows refused to say what the cash had been spent on.

Mr Goldwater added: “The way it started was because the couple were in debt, but then it became an attractive source of extra income.”

He said that, as a result of the fraud, the company had suffered financial difficulties, had to make redundancies and have an injection of funds from the owners in order to remain solvent.

Duncan Phillips, defending, said Burrows recognised the theft was her responsibility and that she would have to be punished.

Recorder Raymond Herman sentenced her to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered her to do 200 hours unpaid work.

He told her: “There is no doubt that you deserve to go to prison.”

Recorder Herman but added he was drawing back from jailing her because her daughters would suffer and the punishment would not directly benefit her victims.

Speaking after the hearing Indespension director Ros Graham said she was disappointed by the sentence.

She added: “She has caused people to lose their jobs and has had no consideration for anyone else.”

Miss Grahamadded that Burrows’ crime had directly resulted in four people being made redundant from the local family firm.

She added: “She was in a position of trust wholly and abused that trust without any concern for anybody.

“I hope she can sleep at night.”