A woman has been spared from prison after a judge ruled a robbery she committed at a Northampton cash point was a "truly desperate act".
Carly Pilcher had reportedly not eaten in five days and was in "a desperate situation" when she saw a woman taking cash out of an ATM near Blackthorn Community Centre earlier this year.
It was the tipping point that made the 39-year-old wait behind the elderly woman and make a grab for the £30 as it was dispensed from the slot.
Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (November 19) how Pilcher was caught between receiving long-term sick pay that did not cover her mortgage and being unable to approach food banks or charities for help as she was technically employed.
The robbery itself came after holding a job with a Northampton firm for 20 years - but she was pushed to act after a tragic succession of personal circumstances.
It led to her sitting outside the One Stop convenience store in Blackthorne Bridge Court contemplating what to do about the situation and making a desperate attempt to take the woman's money.
However, as she ran from the scene, a man who saw the incident stopped and detained her until police arrived.
But at court, Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking ruled she could not send the 39-year-old to prison and felt that it was the actions of a woman who was in "dire straits".
The judge told Pilcher: "Your victim was undoubtedly very shocked and upset by this incident. Fortunately for you, you did not hit her and in fact used the minimum of force.
"I can see your act was a desperate one. You had been unable to feed yourself for five days and it led you to do something entirely out of character.
"I accept you are deeply ashamed and remorseful."
As a result, Judge Lucking handed Pilcher a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, and ordered her to complete rehabilitation work and pay £1,000 in compensation to her victim.
Judge Lucking said: "Let me be clear - people who carry out robberies at cashpoints in this county go to prison. I have made an exception in this case because of powerful personal mitigation.
"If you breach the orders I have made today I will send you to prison."
An award of £250 was also ordered for the member of the public who detained Pilcher as she ran from the cash point.