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Dundee foodbank treasurer who embezzled £4.5k is sentenced

Mhairi Borland's embezzlement was uncovered after debt collectors threatened the foodbank.

Lochee Community Larder, Mhairi Borland
Mhairi Borland pled guilty to embezzling funds from Lochee Community Larder.

The former treasurer of a Dundee foodbank has been ordered to perform unpaid work after she embezzled thousands of pounds from the charity.

Mhairi Borland transferred £4,500 to her own bank account from the Lochee Community Larder – a vital service which helps people in one of Dundee’s most deprived areas.

The 40-year-old could offer no vouching for expenses which she claimed were legitimate.

Her crime was uncovered after a contractor carrying out refurbishment work threatened the foodbank with debt collectors if an outstanding invoice was not paid.

First offender Borland, who had sole access to the larder’s bank details, said the accounts were frozen as part of a fraud investigation.

Other members of the larder visited the bank branch and her deceit was uncovered.

Embezzlement discovered

Prosecutor Laura Farquhar outlined the case at Dundee Sheriff Court.

“The Lochee Community Larder is a foodbank charity which offers bags of shopping at reduced prices.

“The accused was the treasurer of the charity.

“The accused was the only person with access to the community larder’s online bank accounts.

“A witness Bruce received an invoice in August 2021 from a contractor regarding an outstanding balance.

“This was brought to the accused’s attention.

“The accused advised the witness that the money was on hold due to a fraud investigation and that the account was frozen and all bank cards were cancelled.

“In January 2022, a letter from the contractor informed them that they would be reported to a debt collector if the balance was not settled.”

Mhairi Borland
Mhairi Borland. Image: DC Thomson.

After the visit to the bank branch, statements were obtained and it was discovered £4,500 was transferred to Borland’s bank account.

She was asked to bring paperwork, which she did, before police were drafted in.

Borland, of Gourdie Street, was cautioned and charged by police and replied: “I didn’t steal it, I just didn’t return it.”

The larder, based on Whorterbank, was established to tackle food poverty in the area as well as “promoting community development”.

Demand for its services has increased significantly in recent years due to the cost of living crisis.

Borland previously pled guilty to embezzling £4,500 from the charity – visited by actor Brian Cox during an emotional trip to Dundee – between January 1 2019 and January 19 2022.

She was originally charged with embezzling £25,000 but admitted a reduced charge.

Prosecutors accepted a not guilty plea to a charge of stealing a laptop from the charity between January and June 2022.

‘Drastic failure’ of record-keeping

Borland returned to the dock for sentencing on Tuesday following the preparation of a criminal justice social work report.

The author of the report had recommended deferring sentence on Borland for six months for good behaviour, despite the nature of the offence.

Even Borland’s solicitor, Ross Donnelly, conceded this was an inappropriate disposal.

He said Borland took the money in order to “account for various personal expenses”.

“Her view is she had not personally benefited from the embezzlement.

“Whilst her view is the money that she took was in reimbursement for various expenses, she could not vouch for that.

Lochee Community Larder.
Borland took the funds from Lochee Community Larder. Image: Facebook.

“There was a pretty drastic failure on her part to keep those records up to date.

“She’s not disputing the money was transferred to her personal account.”

Mr Donnelly said his client is highly unlikely to appear in court again, adding: “She presents as highly emotional in the report and that’s entirely consistent with how she has presented to me.

“She’s a woman who has been rapidly affected by the court procedure and what she’s been through.

“She has a good social structure and family around her.”


Sheriff Neil Kinnear ordered Borland to perform 200 hours of unpaid work as an alternative to a custodial sentence.

He said: “This is a serious matter, albeit I accept the amount of money was significantly reduced.

“Nonetheless, it involves embezzling a sum of £4,500 from a charity and I have to take a serious view of that.

“You are a first offender and you have lived a perfectly normal life without getting into any trouble until now.

“You come from a generally good background and are well supported and you were not really administering this money properly.

“It’s not the case you were using it to finance a high life, holidays and the like but it’s still a serious matter.”

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