Former Devizes tyre fitter George Venman walked free from court after he admitted keeping almost £5,000 that had been paid into his bank account by mistake.
Venman, 23, received the money plus a further £6,700 from chartered accountants Dutton Mander Duffill, based in Chippenham, after he had been sacked by Mike Wood Tyres in Nursteed Road, Devizes.
Venman, who previously lived in Roseland Avenue, Devizes, and is now living with his girlfriend in Kingsbridge, Devon, was charged with two counts under the Theft Act of dishonestly retaining money.
He admitted keeping £4,948.56, but denied stealing £6,717.43 as this money was recovered by the accountants and this charge was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
On Friday, Winchester Crown Court heard that Venman had completed an apprenticeship at Mike Wood Tyres and left the company.
He returned in August 2012 and was paid £6.35 an hour. However, he was sacked three months later for poor timekeeping.
Susan Cavender, prosecuting, said Venman’s wages were paid up to date. Dutton Mander Duffill, Mike Wood Tyre’s accountants, should have paid tax to Mike Wood Tyres but put the entire £4,948.56 into Venman’s bank account by accident.
Miss Cavender said: “Mr Venman realised almost immediately, because a few days later he bought a car for £1,700.
“At the beginning of January 2013 a second accidental payment (£6,717.43) was made into Mr Venman’s bank account. It was realised on the same day that an error was made and the money was eventually recovered.”
She said Dutton Mander Duffill wrote to Venman in January 2013 requesting the repayment of the £4,948.56 it had wrongly paid into his bank account.
She said: “Mr Venman spoke to Michael Parfitt from Dutton Mander Duffill and said he had no assets, no money, no job and made it plain he would not be paying it back. He was asked to pay back the money within 14 days – he didn’t.”
At the time of the offence, Venman had no previous convictions and Kate Fortescue, defending, said: “He didn’t set out to be dishonest.
“When he left Mike Wood Tyres he had a chat with a lady in accounts and understood there may have been a tax rebate due to him.
“He accepts he wasn’t expecting money of the amount paid to him. When the second amount was paid into his account he went straight to the bank and gave authority for that to be debited there and then.
“He disclosed the other amount that had been paid to him, at that point it wasn’t discovered by Mike Wood Tyres.”
She also said that when he called Dutton Mander Duffill after receiving the request to repay the £4,948.56 he made an offer of payment of £5 a week, which is what he could afford at the time.
Miss Fortescue said: “This (Venman) is a young man who is clearly naive and has poor cognitive skills.”
She said he moved around during his childhood, had difficulties with his education and his parents divorced when he was 12.
His grandparents were in the court and a letter from his grandfather was passed to the judge, Guy Boney QC.
Judge Boney sentenced Venman to a 15-month community order to be supervised by the Probation Service and to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Judge Boney said: “Anyone who steals from his employer is at risk of losing their liberty.
“There is a difference between someone who directly steals £5,000 and someone who has temptation put in front of them like you and succumbs to it by keeping it.
“It would obviously be very much to your advantage if you had work in Devon. I understand the difficulties of getting that type of employment in a country area. One hundred hours of unpaid work will give you something to do and I hope it will bring something useful into your life.”
The loss of the £4,948.56 has been borne by Dutton Mander Duffill. They remain Mike Wood Tyre’s accountants.