A former subpostmistress has been jailed for 18 months after she stole more than over £94,000 from her branch. Jacqueline McDonald of Broughton Post office in Preston, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to theft and seven counts of false accounting dating back to March 2008.

McDonald used the stolen money to pay bills that the convenience store had built up. Her defence said that she reported false figures to Royal Mail when she discovered the tills didn't balance. It was only when a Post Office business development officer visited the store to check the amounts being held that the fraud was uncovered.

The judge presiding over the case said Jacqueline had abused her position in the community. "As a subpostmisstress you were in a position of trust and you were the custodian of effectively public money," he said. "Thefts by those who are in this position are particularly serious and they call for punitive sentencing."

Although it would not comment on the case, a Royal Mail spokesman invited subpostmasters who were struggling and tempted to take money from their post office to contact it for support.