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Woman who claimed UVF pushed her to steal more than £47,000 from employer avoid jail

A 48-year-old woman has been sentenced to two years' probation after she stole more than £47,000 from her employer

A 48-YEAR-OLD woman who stole more than £47,000 from her employer told police she had been pressurised by the UVF.

Helen McQuillan of Magherafelt Road in Castledawson, Co Derry, was sentenced to two years' probation at Derry Crown Court yesterday after she admitted one count of fraud by abuse of position between June 11 2015 and July 9 2016.

The court was told that the owner of the business contacted police after he and his accountant found the defendant had been making unauthorised payments to two accounts.

More than £23,000 had been paid into an account linked to McQuillan.

The other account, in her son's name, was also credited with more than £23,000.

McQuillan was in charge of the business's payroll as a wages clerk and book keeper.

She was arrested on August 5 and admitted the offences to police.

She claimed she had stolen the money under duress from an unnamed member of the UVF who contacted her by leaving notes in a field behind her house.

A defence barrister said that McQuillan had "ongoing personal battles" and was "perceived as a vulnerable person struggling to cope".

The barrister said McQuillan's vulnerability meant she had come under the control of a man who planned to manipulate her.

McQuillan has since repaid the money which will now be handed over to her former employer following the conclusion of the court case.

Passing sentence, Judge Philip Babington said he was minded to accept the woman's story.

He said it was "a serious case" but felt there were exceptional circumstances which allowed him not to impose an immediate prison sentence.

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