Two men who stole stock from the plumbers' merchant where they worked have been put on community orders by a judge.

Simon Lippett, 29, and Christopher Woodhouse, 35, plundered thousands of pounds worth of stock from The Plumb Center in Chippenham.

But after hearing they had no previous convictions, and were under financial pressure at the time, a judge decided not to jail them.

Claire Marlow, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court that managers noticed figures were not tallying at the Bumpers Farm branch.

When an analyst noticed a shortfall in stock on the system at the store closed circuit TV camera were fitted to see what was going on.

"On two occasions Mr Lippett and Mr Woodhouse were seen doing things inconsistent with the system," she said.

"Instead of putting things into the system in their entirety they would enter a lesser number and then the extra was sold on by these defendants and others."

She said company disciplinary hearings were heard when both men admitted what they had been doing.

Lippett, who was accused of taking stock worth £28,000 over two years, had been due to face a trial of issue where a judge would decided the figure after hearing evidence.

But Miss Marlow said it was not necessary as it was accepted both men had just over £3,000 of materials each.

Woodhouse, of Park Lane, Chippenham, and Lippett, now of Southampton, both admitted theft.

Francisca Da Costa, for Lippett, said it all started when a customer asked him if there was 'anything going cheap' and he got the wrong idea.

When he was spoken to in the disciplinary hearing she said he felt intimidated and accepted the figures put to him, which were far too high.

She said he was now working in a similar position with a tiling company in Southampton.

Philip Warren, for Woodhouse, said his client, who was stealing for 18 months, also has a new job which he started in August last year.

Passing sentence Judge Douglas Field said: "It appears that both of you were under some sort of financial pressure when you started stealing from your employer.

"I have already dealt with another man, Moules, and it seems someone started doing it and you all joined in and it escalated.

"It was, of course, a breach of trust and that adds to the seriousness of the situation."

He passed 12-month community orders and ordered them to do 120 hours of community service each and to pay £500 compensation each.

David Moules, of Lackham Circus, Chippenham, was put on a similar order earlier this year after admitted the theft of stock worth £1,300.