At Winchester Crown Court, Rebecca Gillon, 25, a former clerk, admitted two thefts from the branch at Basingstoke, Hampshire, when she worked there as a clerk. She said she stole 'to keep a roof over her head' when her husband's business ran into trouble.
Peter Briegel, for the defence, said Gillon had never been in trouble before and the money had been paid back before the crime was detected during an audit. But the Recorder, Jeremy Storey, said the offences were serious enough to merit a custodial sentence. A community service or probation order were said to be out of the question because Gillon now lives in a remote part of Northumberland.
Prison charities criticised the 'harsh' sentence. Francis Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 'Only in the most extreme cases would we ever condone the imprisonment of women who are caring for young children or pregnant.'
Harry Fletcher, of the National Association of Probation Officers, said the sentence did not benefit the offender, the community or the taxpayer.
Mr Briegel said Gillon was 'an excellent mother who has always worked to keep her family together'. The Recorder said he accepted that she had taken the money to keep her home, but added: 'Other people in a similar position would be appalled if they knew someone was taking money from Barclays to pay the mortgage.'
Gillon, of Alnwick, Northumberland, admitted two thefts in December 1991 and in February 1993. She also admitted one charge of false accounting to cover up a theft. She asked for three other charges of false accounting to be taken into consideration.