Christchurch - Veiled threats of blackmail were made by an employer after a staff member was caught stealing the takings, defence counsel Jonathan Eaton alleged in Christchurch District Court today.

Before the court was Leanna Joy Bishop, a 45-year-old Hornby mother-of-two who pleaded guilty to a charge of theft from the employer, a Riccarton restaurant.

The police said she was a customer service employee at the restaurant for about five years until 2008.

The restaurant set up surveillance cameras when it became concerned that the till takings didn't tally.

The cameras recorded her taking money from the till 12 times, a total of $764, in January and February.

She admitted the thefts, said she was sorry, and was immediately dismissed.

Mr Eaton said there had been veiled threats of blackmail by the employer and significant sums had been demanded from Bishop prior to the matter being reported to the police.

He had made a formal complaint on her behalf about that treatment, he told Judge Patricia Costigan.

He said the offending arose from need, not greed. The family had become over-committed with high mortgage payments. They had now sold the house and were living in rental accommodation.

Judge Costigan said she accepted that some "unusual factors" had developed after Bishop's activities were found out by her former employer.

She convicted the woman and fined her $300 and ordered her to pay back $764. Mr Eaton said that payment could be made within 28 days.

- NZPA