A CLACKS woman has been jailed for more than a year after admitting embezzling tens of thousands of pounds from a Wee County company.

Diane Robertson took £70,000 from the accounts of Tillicoultry-based Style Scotland before telling bosses it was a "lesson" for them when they asked for an apology.

The callous crime even led to staff being made redundant from the small firm, and bosses were persuaded to take pay cuts by Robertson herself despite the financial troubles being her doing.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that Robertson was a salary-contracted bookkeeper before going self-employed so that she could also work for other companies, too.

At one point during the six-year period she was employed by the company, David Louden, company director, was told by his accountant that there were irregular payments.

When Mr Louden confronted Robertson, she "dismissed" it, although the director then decided to check all of the accounts as his suspicion had been aroused.

In 2014-15, there were a number of payments sent to an unnamed account which Mr Louden found "unusual" before finding out that they were accounts belonging to Robertson.

The complainer then made a spreadsheet of irregular payments and phoned the police. Mr Louden calculated the figure to be £70,000 over a seven-year financial period.

Once the 52-year-old returned from a holiday, Mr Louden and another director of the company held a meeting with Robertson, to which she told them she was "struggling and needed money", before saying she thought it was only £30,000 she had taken.

Robertson then bizarrely told Mr Louden: "There's a lesson for you – don't let people pay their own wages."

It was also found that Robertson had been given various loans by her employers throughout her tenure there.

Police then arrested and charged the 52-year-old with embezzlement and she appeared at Alloa Sheriff Court on petition.

At a sentencing hearing last Wednesday, the court heard that the full 70k had been repaid to the company after Robertson sold her share of a home she owned with her partner.

She had also sold a flat in Alloa which she rented out.

In mitigation, Joseph Barr QC, representing Robertson, told the court that his client had taken then money due to "debts caused by impulse buying", a claim Sheriff William Gilchrist called vague before asking for more information.

The sheriff pointed out that Robertson had bought a horse and had a rental flat as well as being full-time employed, and queried how much debt she could have had.

Mr Barr also told the court that her client had shown "genuine remorse" ever since the offence came to light, and even took up a voluntary role at Resonate Together, an Alloa-based charity, and told them about the offence in May 2018.

This prompted another query from the sheriff who asked why if Robertson told Resonate about her guilt in May 2018, why it took her until May the following year to plead guilty in court.

Robertson's claims of remorse were also questioned by Sheriff Gilchrist as he highlighted the fact she initially denied the offence and even blamed Mr Louden for the embezzlement by tendering a special defence of incrimination.

Mr Barr thereafter asked for a short adjournment to speak with his client, after the lawyer told the court this revelation was "a surprise to me."

Afterwards, Robertson returned to the dock and was told she would have to serve a custodial sentence for her actions.

Sheriff Gilchrist told her: "This is clearly a gross breach of trust.

"Not just the embezzlement but you were doing it when you were being supported by your employers, even saying that they should take a pay cut while embezzling their company."

Robertson, of George Street, Alva, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and showed no emotion as she was led away in handcuffs.

Outside court, Jonathan Richards, a director at the company, told the Advertiser he was pleased that the court saw through the mitigation.

He said: "I'm pleased the manipulation of her has been seen in court.

"They tried to paint her as a saint who does charity work, but we haven't seen a single bit of remorse from her.

"I'm pleased that something which is so wrong has been punished."