A KIRKLEES Council bailiff who stole £7,000 over four years has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Stephen Jones, 52, resigned from his post as an enforcement officer after he was suspended during an investigation into the missing cash.
Jones, of Russell Street, Dewsbury, was questioned after a colleague alerted the council in January last year.
Although the investigators were concerned about money taken from three members of the public, Jones volunteered that he had been taking cash from other people as well.
Bradford Crown Court heard that Jones had been altering copies of receipts and stealing the difference.
Jones admitted three charges of theft and five offences of false accounting.
His offending was said to have covered a period between January 2004 and January last year.
Barrister Martin Robertshaw, for Jones, said he had started taking money when his marriage broke down and he got into financial difficulties.
He stressed that the money had not been spent on a lavish lifestyle or luxury goods.
"He found himself in financial difficulties and was tempted initially to use his employers as an unofficial borrowing facility", said Mr Robertshaw.
He said Jones had intended to pay back the money, but matters escalated.
Recorder Mark Bury was told that Jones, who now has new employment, was able to pay back a lump sum of £4,000 and would offer to pay back the rest at the rate of £100 a month.
Recorder Bury made a compensation order in those terms and said he was prepared to suspend a 28-week prison sentence for 12 months.
Jones will also have to do 150 hours unpaid work for the community within the next year.
"You had worked for many years for Kirklees Borough Council and I am quite satisfied that during the majority of those years you were an honest, hard-working and respected employee," the judge told Jones.
"Plainly you had problems of a domestic nature which caused you to behave in this dishonest way".
The judge said Jones’ admissions had meant that suspicion had not fallen on anyone else.
He warned Jones, however, that he could still be jailed if he failed to do the unpaid work or committed any further offences.
"I’m quite confident you won’t do that," added Recorder Bury.