A NURSERY treasurer who stole £7,000 from a school fund has been labelled “mean”, “dishonest” and “devious” by a crown court judge.

Emma Louise Gilmore, 38, of Lache Hall Crescent, Lache was spending thousands of pounds on online casinos when she defrauded Belgrave Preschool playgroup in Westminster Park of £7,362.48 in 2006.

Gilmore worked as treasurer for the playgroup from March 2006 to March 2007 and in May 2006 had reported healthy accounts. But by the end of term, the group was facing ruin with the funds all but dried up.

She had been withdrawing large sums, marking the cash as petty cash and expenses, saying she was reimbursing herself for goods she bought for the school.

Sentencing Gilmore at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge David Hale told her: “It was apparent to you in May that the financial position of the group at that stage was good. You took that as your green light to start taking money for yourself.

“By the following November the school was in a parlous state.”

Judge Hale said he had been tempted to jail Gilmore when she made serious allegations against her former colleagues who uncovered Gilmore’s theft.

In December, a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict against Gilmore after a week-long trial.

Barbara Caswall, the mother of Vivien Devlin, one of the members of staff who disclosed the scam, says her daughter’s name was dragged through the mud by Gilmore during the trial.

She said: “To see my daughter in the witness box was heartrending. She was very, very poorly.”

Gilmore was ordered to complete 240 hours of unpaid work in the community and a future hearing will decide the amount she has to pay the school in compensation.