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Have you raised your concerns with your solicitor? Has he given you any indication of what punishment you are likely to receive?
I'm not a solicitor but I shouldn't think that you'd be likely to get a prison sentence for the theft of £550. In the general scheme of things, this isn't a huge amount of money, this was your first offence and your employers have provided you with a 'character reference'. You admitted your guilt straight away which should also go in your favour.
Without a doubt you're going to be worried sick until Friday is over and done with but this is always going to be the worst time just because you don't know what's going to happen. Please try not to beat yourself up too much about the offence. Lots of people make stupid mistakes especially when their world is a bit chaotic (i.e. in debt, being chased by bailiffs etc). You know why you acted in this way (possibly because you didn't ask for help etc) and this will hopefully mean that you're unlikely to put yourself in this position again. Don't assume that your life's ruined - there are 10.5 million people in the UK with a criminal record and many of them are very successfully. Once Friday is over, put this behind you and concentrate on the future.
Good luck on Friday - let us know what happens. Once we know what type of sentence/disposal you receive, we'll be in a much better position to give you any information you need about disclosing your conviction to an employer. If you need anything before Friday, please feel free to contact our helpline.
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