Theft of £5,000 was 'action of desperate man'
A SHOP manager who stole £5,000 from his employer as bailiffs knocked on his door has been spared jail.
Mark Fullwood, aged 39, was manager at Cool Trader, Tunstall, in July last year when he helped himself to the money from the store's safe.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court yesterday heard Fullwood was responsible for collecting money from the tills and depositing it in the safe.
The court heard that on July 20 last year, the safe was checked by a loss prevention manager and was found to contain £5,000 instead of £10,000.
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Fullwood admitted taking the other £5,000, saying he had received a call from home saying the bailiffs were there.
When Fullwood was interviewed by the company and the police, he admitted to taking £3,000 on July 8, and £2,000 three days later.
He said he was in arrears with his mortgage company, and forged the deputy manager's signature to hide what he was doing.
He said he intended to repay the cash as his parents had agreed to lend him money, but they had to give their bank a month's notice.
Fullwood described his offending as the actions of a 'desperate man', and added that he regretted what he had done.
The court heard the defendant was cautioned for a similar offence in 2009.
Fullwood, of Ravenna Way, Meir Hay, pleaded guilty to theft and false accounting.
Jason Holt, mitigating, said Fullwood had been living beyond his means, but not to excess.
He said the defendant and his partner fell on hard times after both lost their jobs in the recession.
"These are the actions of a very desperate man," said Mr Holt. "The offences were simply to pay for what had been an ordinary lifestyle.
"He very genuinely believed at the time of taking the money, when the bailiffs were knocking on the door, that he would be able to replace the money before anyone realised it was missing. He clearly was not thinking."
Mr Holt added that Fullwood's house has now been repossessed, and the father-of-two is living in rented accommodation.
Judge Robert Trevor-Jones sentenced Fullwood to six months in prison, suspended for two years, with 12 months supervision, 180 hours' unpaid work and six sessions of YSS (Youth Support Services). He must also pay £500 compensation.
The judge told Fullwood: "You are developing something of a trait, a dishonest trait.
"You were cautioned three years ago for a virtually identical set of offences. One has to worry about whether you learnt a lesson."
But he added: "It is quite clear this was against a background of significant financial strain for you and your family.
"It happened as a result of receiving news the bailiffs were at the front door. In some degree of panic, you took a substantial amount of money.
"It is right to say you made immediate admissions and did not seek to attribute blame elsewhere."