A shamed solicitor who lost his career as a result of his gambling addiction has been cleared of stealing from clients.

Nathan Horsley was accused of stealing £17,685 while working at Hedley's and Co, in Sunderland, but jurors found him not guilty of 16 theft charges.

However last summer he was found guilty of seven fraud charges, in which he placed orders for goods when he had no money in the bank to pay for them.

A reporting restriction meant we were unable to report on the fraud convictions while he was standing trial on the theft charges.

Now Horsley, 37, has been given a suspended prison sentence by a judge who said his gambling habit lay at the root of his problems.

Judge Amanda Rippon, at Newcastle Crown Court, told him: "I am of the view, and I am sorry you don't think you are, that you are in a terrible addiction.

"Gambling is an appalling addiction when someone is in the thrall of it.

"The way you were able to gamble, the amount of money you were able to recycle, reload, the way you had to pawn items to get money, use high credit loans to get the money speaks of the appalling thrall gambling holds you in.

"I can only hope when you saw the figures, that were eye watering, that you start to have some understanding of the damage it is doing.

"It is not a way to make money.

"There is no doubt, gambling is the reason why you are no longer able to practice as  solicitor, which is tragic."

Horsley, of Ashfield Close, Hartlepool, was found guilty of seven fraud charges and cleared of another one, last year.

The offences, committed between 2016 and 2018, involved Horsley placing orders for goods, including fireworks, high value hampers, Thorntons chocolates and M&S gift cards, when he had no money in his bank to cover the costs.

Horsley was not successful in some of the orders he placed but caused an estimated total loss of £2,000 to companies with the ones that did succeed.

Judge Rippon sentenced him to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years.

The judge told him: "I acknowledge you have spent the last five years in extremely difficult circumstances. You have been punished on multiple occasions in multiple different ways.

"You are not the man of those years ago.

"Your personal life has been effected. You have lost a great deal over the last five years.

"By your convictions last summer, you will never practice as a solicitor, something you worked hard for."