A trusted bar manager who stole more than £20,000 from his city centre pub has been spared jail.
Mark Hardy pocketed takings, float money and cash meant for staff wages while running Vesta Tilleys, in High Street West, Sunderland, on behalf of Amber Taverns.
The 44-year-old admitted theft by employee and confessed he had resorted to stealing after running up crippling debts with loan sharks.
Prosecutor Neil Pallister told Newcastle Crown Court Hardy handed himself in to the police after he was confronted by Amber Taverns management, who own the city venue, about banking discrepancies last October.
Hardy, of Somerset Cottages, Silksworth, confessed to taking a total of £20,180, part of which was unpaid wages, meant for staff who work at the busy bar.
Mr Pallister said: "The company, although they weren't strictly responsible for paying staff wages, felt they had a moral obligation and the company paid all outstanding staff wages."
Jacqueline Coxon, defending, said Hardy, who has been in the pub trade for over a decade and is "well liked and well respected", fell in debt to loan sharks while tring to keep a previous business afloat.
Miss Coxon added: "He just got to the end of his tether.
"He was swimming in debt and unfortunately, stupidly, decided to take that money.
"He thought he could potentially recoup the money and pay back what he owed from the future earnings of the pub, because the earnings were so good.
"It is very, very unlikely that he will ever be back before the court."
The court heard Hardy produced references to his ordinarily positive character and he has the chance of a new job.
Judge Amanda Rippon sentenced Hardy to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements.
The judge told him: "You had debt problems. As a result of that, and having ready access to a significant amount of cash, you started to become less than reliable in your banking of the takings.
"There is a significant breach of a high degree of trust."
Judge Rippon said the prospect of new employment was a positive step for Hardy.
But she warned him: "I know you remain in considerable debt and that debt is to people who make your life difficult.
"If you get this job do not resort to stealing again."