A landlord’s agent who “robbed Peter to pay Paul” by swindling £32,000 from her clients has walked free.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC said her fault lay in the fact that she failed to tell her landlord clients she had been made bankrupt.

Rent money that she collected should have gone to her landlord clients, but instead it was being paid into a frozen account.

The judge suspended her 18-month jail term for two years at Belfast Crown Court.

She pleaded guilty to nine charges of committing fraud by abuse of position and a further count of the theft of £265, on dates between January 1, 2008 and and January 27, 2011.

Prosecutor Rosemary Walsh told the court that she was running a property management firm, the “go-between” for landlords and tenants.

Ms Walsh described how she would collect the rents, deduct fees for her duties and property upkeep before passing on money to various landlords.

She was declared bankrupt in 2009 and money which should have gone to her clients was instead lodged into an account which had been frozen and was being used to pay her debts.

“I think it could be summarised,” said Ms Walsh, “that by the end of it she was robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Defence lawyer John O’Connor said it was a “sad case” that she had invested in a failed business, had been constantly remortgaging her house and defrauding the landlords in an effort to keep the business afloat.

As well as the suspended jail term, Judge Kerr adjourned confiscation proceedings for six months.

He told her that she ought to have told her clients of her bankruptcy, giving them the option of using a different company instead of her trying to save her dying business.