A Royal Mail postal worker who stole more than £500 worth of gift vouchers and cash from greeting cards has avoided a prison sentence despite her "gross breach of trust".

Beata Lincel, 37, a Polish national who worked at the Royal Mail’s Tooting delivery station for seven years, pinched the presents from packages she noticed were unusually thick.

She started stealing after a friend, who no longer works for the Royal Mail, suggested it to her in 2011 and for the next two years she found it difficult to resist temptation when she saw a particularly juicy packet.

Lincel, of Lavender Avenue, Mitcham, was busted by police after a woman informed Royal Mail she suspected a £50 Next gift card she sent from Plymouth to a London address had been stolen.

After calling Next to cancel the card, she was informed the voucher had already been spent at their Colliers Wood branch on November 9 last year.

Police identified Ms Lincel as the purchaser after interviewing staff and examining CCTV at the store on December 5.

Royal Mail investigators then carried out a search of the Tooting delivery station on December 20, Lincel was cautioned and £30 in cash was confiscated.

At her home they found a number of gift cards, four vouchers, cash, a $50 Australian note and Next clothes purchased with the stolen gift card.

She was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, after admitting three counts of theft and three counts of fraud.

Before sentencing her at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court district judge Henderson said: "Clearly the defendant acted over a long period of time.

"The nature of the defendant’s job means this is a gross abuse of trust, stealing gift vouchers and bringing the Royal Mail into disrepute in the eyes of the public."

She was also ordered to pay £453 in compensation to Royal Mail, £240 for the cost of the hearings, £1,000 towards the other costs of the investigation and an £80 surcharge.