Employee who ‘destroyed’ Nailsea family business spared jail

Peake was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court.

Peake was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

An employee who created fake adverts and claimed commission off them caused a small publishing firm in Nailsea to close down.

Kirstie Port pleaded guilty to false accounting, theft and fraud when she worked at Publishing Today, in Kingshill.

Bristol Crown Court heard on January 8 that Port, aged 45, was a friend of the company's owner, Julie Petford, who gave Port a job after she came into financial problems.

Publishing Today was responsible for eight community magazines and made money solely from advertisements placed in the publications.

Port was responsible for selling adverts, but she abused her position of trust and ultimately caused the business to close.

Port obtained £831.30 in commissions on false adverts. She also stole £450 and claimed £1,563.23 in overtime shifts she claimed to have worked.

Grace Flynn, prosecuting, said: "Port made it look like she was hitting her sales targets and selling advertising space, but, in reality, she was nowhere near them.

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"Mrs Petford phoned a customer to ask how long they had been advertising with the company, but they said they did not have an account set up with them."

Mrs Petford had been considering selling the business - when a potential buyer flagged up the discrepancies in the company's accounts, she was forced to close her family business, which 'took more than 20 years to set up'.

She said: "We had no idea the figures did not match and only found out two days after giving staff new contracts.

"If we had known people were pulling out, we would have been able to talk to them and find out why.

"After 25 years of building the business, it just took her (Port) three years to cause its destruction."

Port, who is now the manager of the Churchill Inn, in Bristol Road, received a nine-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.

She must also undertake 140 hours of unpaid work, pay compensation worth £300 and a victim surcharge of £100.

Kevin Hopper, defending, said Port's offences were 'very easy' to her.

He said: "The reality was it was a very easy thing to do, so she just kept doing it."