A MOTHER who stole £47,000 from a Bury firm to buy quality time with her son before she was jailed for defrauding another company, has been sentenced.

Natalie Johnston, of Waverley Road, Swinton, had been working as a bookkeeper at Tottington Motor Company in 2017 when she made 51 separate transactions from the firm’s business account into her own personal bank account over a seven-month period.

The fraud and financial loss, amounting to £46,851.43, meant that the company had to consider making redundancies, and left the managing director under serious stress, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

The 39-year-old claimed she stole the money to buy quality time with her son before she was jailed for another theft of £122,000 from Altrincham-based property developer, the Fortis Group.

She then used the stolen cash to pay for trips to the Lake District, Rome and Ireland, and bought birthday gifts and treats for her ill son ­— who she believed would be taken away by her husband when she was convicted.

Her fraud of the Tottington company was discovered by the firm's managing director Jason Mawdsley after he noticed a discrepancy between invoices that had been received for three training courses and four payments that had been made.

At an early court hearing Johnston pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of her position.

Defending, Michael Johnson said that Johnston had been suffering from mental health issues, including manic and depressive episodes and emotionally unstable personality traits, which can cause impulsive behaviour and "extravagant spending".

However Judge Angela Nield said: "Extravagant spending is one thing, stealing to spend extravagantly is another thing."

Mr Johnson also described Johnston as a "kind and caring lady", who looked after her family and friends, adding: "on a regular, almost daily basis, she has gone out of her way to help other people."

Sentencing Johnston to 33 months in prison, Judge Nield said her offences represented a "significant breach of trust" which had had repercussions for the Tottington Motor Company, and in particular its owner, his family and mental health.

Judge Nield added: "There is an assumption that fraud, no matter how much money is involved, is an offence with faceless victims. And where large companies are concerned there can be a mistake in perceiving that the money can simply disappear and not have any impact on any individuals.

"If that assumption were ever to be proven wrong this is a case where it has been. And looking at the victim impact statement of the owner of Tottington Motor Company makes that abundantly clear."