A worker ordered more than £40,000 of tools and equipment using his company's cash then sold them to line his pockets.

Trusted Robert Irelade was authorised to spend up to £500 a time without authorisation as part of his job ordering electrical items.

Newcastle Crown Court heard between January 2018 and February 2020, the 35-year-old purchased 50,000 items, worth a total of £43,703, which he took home and sold on to make cash that he could keep.

He was collared when bosses at Orwin Ltd, in Washington, became suspicious about a laptop he had bought using company funds and launched an investigation.

Prosecutor Emma Hughes told the court Iredale was initially invited to a meeting with management and added: "The defendant admitted to purchasing the laptop and said he intended to pay the company back.

"He admitted purchasing other items."

Miss Hughes said disciplinary proceedings were then commenced against Iredale and he produced a list of tools and equipment, including the laptop, that he had bought through the company accounts and sold on for personal profit.

She added: "Overall, there were 50,000 items purchased."

The court heard Iredale made a full confession to the police.

Miss Hughes said: "He said it started with drill bits which he ordered and were unsuitable. Instead of returning them he took them home and sold them.

"He describes it carrying on from there and spiralling out of control.

"He admitted keeping orders under £499.99 intentionally, so the orders wouldn't need authorisation."

Iredale, of Victory Street West, Hetton-le-Hole, admitted theft.

Recorder Toby Hedworth QC told Iredale: "With this level of breach of trust and the repetitive nature of what was going on, working carefully to keep the thefts below £500, it seems to me the offending has got to be marked with imprisonment."

But the judge said Iredale's previous good character, his personal mitigation and immediate honesty meant the jail term could be suspended.

Iredale was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 100 hours unpaid work and rehabilitation requirements.

Jamie Adams, defending, said Iredale has a history of mental health problems and has applied for universal credit while being repeatedly knocked back for jobs due to his conviction.

Mr Adams said: "He is someone whose life is in tatters and he is not blaming anyone but himself."

Mr Adams said Iredale was honest as soon as he was confronted about his dishonesty and added: "He admitted everything and, moreover, he went beyond what they were asking him about."