A SINGLE mother who stole almost £30,000 from her former employer to feed her online gambling and shopping habits has avoided a prison sentence.

Tara Stevens, 30, of Monmouth Walk, Markham, appeared at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to fraud.

The court heard that during a 14 month period, Stevens stole £28,000 from the Markham Miners Welfare Club while working as head stewardess.

Prosecuting, Julian Greenwood said that the club’s committee noticed a number of discrepancies in their own accounts and the matter was investigated.

“It was noticed that the defendant was making large cash deposits in her own Lloyds bank account,” said the barrister.

Mr Greenwood added that Stevens would usually make the deposits on Mondays or Tuesdays, which included the takings from the club’s bar.

“After her dismissal, she denied it at first when interviewed by the police,” said Mr Greenwood.

Mr Greenwood also read out victim impact statements from Nicola Jones, the club’s secretary and club chairman Michael Martin.

“We trusted Tara and we are left in financial ruin,” said Mr Greenwood, reading Mr Martin’s statement.

Defending, Stephen Thomas said the defendant was “sorry” and “remorseful” for her actions and had been "up front" about her addiction to spending money online.

“She does not put it forward as an excuse,” said Mr Thomas. “At the time she was addicted to online gambling.

"A lot of the money she stole was to feed that and buying things online.

“It was an easy way out for her. She is remorseful and she is sorry.”

Concluding, Judge Neil Bidder QC called Stevens’ actions “a very serious breach of trust” which had a “catastrophic” effect on her former employer.

Mr Bidder QC added that Stevens’ initial denial of her actions had “effectively shovelled off the blame to other people”.

The judge told the court that Stevens' four-year-old son had been one of the key mitigating factors as to why she was not receiving an immediate custodial sentence.

“You didn’t consider the child when you were gambling online,” he said.

Stevens received a 12 month sentence suspended for 24 months, as well as a seven day rehabilitation activity requirement.

She was also ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid work.