A TRUSTED employee and friend stole £20,000 from his boss by using company materials to carry out work for himself, a court heard.

Bradford Crown Court was told that Matthew Long, 43, a married father-of-five, was a “pillar of respectability” and had brought shame on his family.

Prosecutor Louise Pryke said Long, of Brambleside, Denholme, who pleaded guilty to fraud, worked as contracts manager for Kwik Klik Hoardings, which provided shop front hoardings for large shopping centres. His job involved organising labour, getting new business, visiting sites, producing estimates, arranging for work to be done and monitoring jobs to completion.

Miss Pryke said that in June 2016 the company’s accounts showed it had made the first loss in its history, prompting an investigation which revealed the defendant was carrying out work for himself, using the company’s materials, but being paid directly.

Long made full admissions to police and said he had received around £20,000 over two years. He said he gave a quote to one firm and was asked if he could do it any cheaper, and agreed to do so. He was then approached by other companies to do the same.

The court heard that company owner Tony Docherty believed the defendant was a friend and they had spent weekends away together. In a victim personal statement, Mr Docherty said that for three years a person who was sitting ten feet away from him was stealing from him. He was now suspicious of anyone trying to befriend him.

Long’s barrister, Andrew Dallas, said: “This isn’t a case of a man wanting a high life, running a mistress or a secret gambling habit. He has, in all respects, led a highly industrious, highly respected life. He was working, quite literally, night and day for this company.”

Mr Dallas said the offences were sporadic, rather than a continual course of conduct. His client had a new job as a sales manager and he had so far saved £8,000 to pay compensation to his former company. Judge David Hatton QC said Long had been a man of good character, but the fraud was a very significant breach of trust of his employer and supposed friend. But Judge Hatton said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that your remorse is great and that your shame is deep. It is to your credit you have already begun to save funds to reimburse your employer and seek to make good some, if not all, that you have unlawfully gained.”

The judge said he did not believe there was a risk of Long reoffending.

Long was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment suspended for two years, with 180 hours of unpaid community work.