JAILED: Rachael Knights must serve three months behind bars.
JAILED: Rachael Knights must serve three months behind bars.

FRAUD MUM: Spotlight boss's staggering debt revealed

A MOTHER who repeatedly and "brazenly" stole almost $42,000 from safes at the Spotlight store she was managing must now spend three months behind bars.

Rachael Louise Knights, 48, pleaded guilty yesterday to 13 charges of fraud and stealing by clerks and servants.

Bundaberg Magistrates Court heard Knights took thousands of dollars at a time from the safe at Spotlight Bundaberg at different times between August and October 2018.

Knights initially stole a total of $17,458, which she paid back with her own wages over the offending period.

Spotlight became aware of some discrepancies and installed CCTV cameras near the safes.

But that did not stop Knights. Instead, she changed her method and during that time nabbed more than $24,253. Those funds have never been repaid.

Defence lawyer Nick Larter said Knights had taken the money as a kind of "line of credit" to alleviate her more than $550,000 debt.

Mr Larter said with a husband who refused to work after suffering a severe workplace incident, taking in both mother-in-laws, and the loss of her business in Hinkler Central after the floods in 2011, she found herself in a desperate position.

"She was to an extent attempting to do it all on her own ... but she was falling behind," Mr Larter said.

"She is deeply remorseful now and looking back she is shocked she could have descended into that behaviour.

"It was her intention always to return the funds to the store ... her sole desire was to keep her family afloat."

Magistrate Bronwyn Hartigan said Knights' offending wasn't "sophisticated" but it was persistent and "brazen".

"(After CCTV cameras were installed in the office) you had to change the way you took the money," Ms Hartigan said.

"So even though you knew Spotlight was investigating this, it didn't stop your conduct."

An initial application for Knights' name not to be published on the basis her children may be bullied at school as a result of her actions was denied by Ms Hartigan.

Ms Hartigan said allowing the suppression of her name would set a "dangerous precedent" for other offenders with cases going through open court.

She said while it was unfortunate, she could not allow the discretion on the basis of that potential "collateral damage" may occur.

"At the end of the day any harm that flows to her children is a consequence of her own actions, and that falls on her shoulders," Ms Hartigan said.

Ms Hartigan said despite Knights' lack of criminal history and age, she must serve a period of imprisonment.

Knights was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended after three months to be served for an operational period of three years.

No restitution was ordered to be paid.