A RECEPTIONIST at a Borders veterinary practice stole £100,000 from her employers to fund her gambling addiction, Selkirk Sheriff Court has been told.

Gayle Middlemas, 30, embezzled the six-figure sum from the Greenside Veterinary Practice in St Boswells between January 2016 and February 2019.

The court heard that she had resigned from her post after questions were raised about financial irregularities, but she was able to keep stealing money as she had access to their computer system.

But her lawyer has urged for her to be spared a prison sentence as her employers did not check her work allowing her to build up the embezzled sum to £100,000.

He also said she had a new job and her new employers had been standing by her.

Before imposing a sentence, a sheriff has requested further information to establish if Middlemas' new employers knew the case against her and whether she had any assets so she could start paying back the money she stole.

Sentence has been deferred on Middlemas, of Eildon near Melrose, until October 5.

The court heard that the Greenside Veterinary Practice had been established for more than 100 years and employed 15 vets and Middlemas had worked there for more than 10 years.

She started as an animal care assistant before taking over responsibility for all payments being processed after a computer system was installed.

She was also responsible for taking money and depositing it in the bank.

Depute fiscal Fiona Hamilton said there was no regular check of her work but at the end of 2015 and start of 2016, a financial discrepancy was raised by a manager.

She continued: "It was explained by the accused and no further action taken.

"The Practice was then sold and errors noticed."

Ms Hamilton said several card payments were queried and when they could not get an answer from Middlemas suspicions were raised.

She was confronted by Practice senior management and she said she would rectify the mistakes but she was unable to provide the missing receipts.

The fiscal said management were still under the impression she was doing her job incorrectly rather than dishonestly.

But Middlemas had become upset at the claims against her and put in a letter of resignation.

In February 2019 a customer produced a cash receipt but the payment had been put through the system as a card receipt.

Ms Hamilton said: "The staff became of the view the cash had been taken by the accused.

"A full investigation was launched and several other payments had been changed from cash to card payments and multiple discrepancies identified as payments taken."

Ms Hamilton said there were suspected transactions since the accused had left the Practice but could access the computer system remotely. The transactions were traced to someone who stated her name was Gayle.

A warrant was obtained to search her property and bank accounts and there were several large deposits.

Ms Hamilton said this amounted to £100,000 over three years.

When interviewed by police Middlemas initially denied any form of embezzlement.

But the fiscal added: "She went on to admit taking some money but unsure how much and it had become an addiction.

"She knew it was wrong."

Defence lawyer Ed Hulme said his client had been employed at the Practice since leaving school at the age of 16.

Since the offending was uncovered she had found new employment.

He said: "The employer is aware of this offence and is supportive. She also has a second job in a local public house working shifts."

Explaining the background to the offence, Mr Hulme said: "She was gambling. She suffered an addiction to gambling.

"She was trusted in her role and there was no oversight of her work and somehow this went undetected for a period of three years.

"The firm's book-keeper queried the discrepancies between the accounts and books and management wrote it off.

"If there had been any inquiry by the employers this would have been caught much earlier."

Mr Hulme pointed out the firm - which has a turnover of millions of pounds - had not seemed to have taken the matter "all that seriously”.

But he added: "None of this detracts from her misconduct which she accepts. She has not paid any money back.

"It was all spent on her gambling.

"For that she is extremely ashamed and apologetic."

Mr Hulme said there was an alternative to a custodial sentence through a Community Pay Back Order which could involve supervision, unpaid work and a restriction of liberty order and compensation could be paid at £100 a month which he accepted could never cover the sum taken.

Sheriff Donald Corke said: "I am aware of the desirability of reaching a decision as soon as possible but I don't want to rush any judgement."

He said vouching should be provided to establish if her new employers know what the case against her is.

The sheriff also asked if Middlemas had any other assets she could give him to start paying back the money embezzled.

Sheriff Corke said he was satisfied the offence met the custody threshold but deferred sentence until October 5 for the further information to be provided to the court.