A Fife mother who embezzled £92,000, in part to pay for IVF treatment, sobbed in the dock as she narrowly avoided being jailed.
Debbie Stevenson appeared for sentencing at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court after admitting stealing the cash from her former employers.
The 37-year-old was blasted by the sheriff, who said he did not believe her tears were a sign of genuine remorse but prompted by fear of being sent to prison.
However, the judge decided the first time offender would instead have to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and be subject to a 12-month electronic tagging order.
The court heard how Stevenson, formerly of Cardenden, spent less than half the stolen cash on IVF treatment which was carried out during three trips to Greece in 2015.
But the deception continued even after she gave birth to twins later that year and the money was spent elsewhere.
The court had received a letter alleging that Stevenson had been spending the cash on luxury family holidays, buying a new car and paying for home improvements.
But defence solicitor David Cranston said: “The lavish lifestyle referred to just wasn’t the case.
“They were around £2000 a month better off with the money she embezzled and she paid her mother £1300 a month to act as a nanny to the children.
“She did not landscape the garden of her rented property but had it relaid to tidy it up.
“She has left Scotland as she is so ashamed by her actions and has left a large family behind in Glenrothes. Her father has turned his back on her.
“She is a 37-year-old lady who has no previous convictions and who clearly had a decent moral code up until this point.
“She was doomed to failure and detection through her actions and now feels deep shame.
“The primary force for taking the money was to pay for IVF treatment but she accepts that she became accustomed to the monies during what she considered to be a financial rut.”
Stevenson transferred money from The Pitreavie Group in Glenrothes into two bank accounts under her control between August 2014 and January 2017.
In sentencing, Sheriff Gilchrist said he was treating Mrs Stevenson’s alleged remorse and shame with “a degree of scepticism” due to it’s late appearance in the proceedings.
He said: “You must acknowledge that not even half of the money that you embezzled went on the IVF.
“This is an extremely serious matter which amounts to a gross breach of trust which would have had a significant impact on your former employers.
“It undoubtedly warrants a substantial custodial sentence. You appear before me as a first time offender and the mother of young children which I must take into account.
“Quite how I’m supposed to deal with that when you committed the crime to have the children in the first place, I’m not entirely clear.
“This is the first time you have ever shown an semblance of remorse and no mention of paying the money back has ever been mentioned.”
Stevenson, who now lives in Hebburn, Tyne & Weir, was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and given a restriction of liberty order for 12 months.