A debt-ridden mum who pinched thousands of pounds from an Armed Forces support charity has been spared immediate prison.

Judith Thom, 41, was employed as assistant manager at a Carlisle base of the Forces Support Charity. This raises money "to provide practical support for the families of our fallen heroes".

Thom, previously a volunteer, was trusted to cash up daily takings and bank them. But during March and April last year she failed to carry out that task, instead pocketing £5,631.

When tackled, Thom initially denied committing any crime and even produced fake receipts.

It emerged she was in "significant debt", and trying to help a son who was absent without leave from the Armed Forces.

Thom admitted theft and was sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court today.

Recorder Philip Curran suspended an eight-month prison term for 18 months after hearing of the defendant's ill health at the time of her crime.

She must complete 150 hours' unpaid work and rehabilitation.

Recorder Curran told Thom, of Grasmere Street, Carlisle:

You stole money from the charity which is a mean and horrible thing to do; particularly when one thinks that today, when you are being sentenced, we are a couple of days away from Remembrance Sunday, and this money was intended to assist and aid members of the Armed Forces who have been bravely defending the country."

Recorder Curran