A man who stole more than £5,000 from his employer and then claimed the firm was making him a scapegoat for its IT problems has been spared an immediate jail sentence.

Jamie Ward ripped off James Chambers Timber Merchants while working for the company as a sales representative, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Ward, 33, of Egremont Street, Sowerby Bridge, pleaded guilty to theft by employee, between March 13 and June 17, 2019.

Prosecutor Nicola Hoskins said he began working for the timber merchant in Pellon Lane, Halifax, in June, 2018.

The following year, he started to steal cash he had collected from business transactions, often inflating the cost, before marking the order as cancelled on the IT system to cover his tracks.

In all, he stole £5,448, Miss Hoskins said.

In July, 2019, Ward was invited to a meeting at the firm but made excuses.

When he turned up on July 18, he admitted what he had done, resigned and handed back his car and phone, Miss Hoskins said.

He begged the firm not to call the police, saying he would pay back the money, but when they were alerted he denied the allegations.

He falsely told investigating officers that the timber merchant was making him a scape-goat and blamed its IT system.

Miss Hoskins said Ward had previous convictions for similar offences, including theft by employee and fraud by false representation.

The theft was a planned breach of trust, she told the court.

In mitigation, the court heard that Ward had worked extremely hard for the firm to turn his life around. But he ran into money problems over a debt and borrowed from loan sharks.

He panicked and tried to distance himself from his dishonesty by claiming the firm had framed him.

“He was working exceptionally hard to turn his life around but things had gone wrong,” his barrister said.

Since then, Ward hadn’t put a foot wrong, the court was told.

He had found another job and he was arranging to pay back the stolen money through the civil court.

Recorder Abdul Iqbal QC sentenced Ward to 14 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work.

He must attend ten rehabilitation activity days with the probation service and pay £510 costs.

Recorder Iqbal made no order for compensation because the timber merchant has gone to the county court to get its money back.