Sunderland postman stole bank cards to fund cocaine habit after his marriage broke up
A former postman has been spared jail after stealing more than Â£7,000 from Royal Mail customers.
Steven Hair helped himself to 69 items including 49 bank cards, 18 pin numbers and two greetings cards, one containing a gift card, between May and October last year.
The 38-year-old had been employed by the Royal Mail as a postman at the Sunderland Delivery office since April 2007 when he carried out the offences.
The crime came to light when a customer reported a missing TSB card and pin number as well as cash which had disappeared from their account.
During the course of the Royal Mail investigation a further five complaints were made.
Customers# new bank cards had not been delivered and had been used to withdraw cash.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Hair was caught on CCTV withdrawing money from a bank using stolen cards.
Royal Mail investigators identified themselves to Hair and he agreed to be interviewed.
Fiona Lamb, prosecuting for Royal Mail, said: "He admitted theft of the postal packets, bank cards and pins. He said he had other bank cards in his locker.
"He said he was addicted to cocaine and used the cash to fund his drug habit. In total the investigations found 69 items."
The total amount of cash taken by Hair was £7,047.64.
In a victim impact statement read out by Ms Lamb, one customer said: "It's made me feel very vulnerable that someone has got my card details and taken our hard-earned money from our account."
Another customer said: "A postman in a position of trust has stolen from me. The money has been returned to our bank account, but this caused a lot of distress."
Hair, of Castle View, Castletown, Sunderland, admitted one count of theft and one of fraud at a previous hearing.
Vic Laffey, defending, said: "It was at the time of the breakdown of his marriage that he began to take cocaine.
"He started mixing with a group of friends and began going out an awful lot more than someone married who has a home and is settled.
"What started off as something of a weekend venture as far as drugs are concerned became much more serious.
"It got to the point the habit became astronomical, between £300 and £700 over the weekend - something he couldn't continue without submitting to the temptation which he did.
"He was clearly not acting in the manner he has done all his life."
Mr Laffey told the court how, after losing his employment with Royal Mail, Hair found himself a job at a car manufacturer in the area.
Mr Recorder David Dobbin told Hair: "You have pleaded guilty to two offences, one of theft and one of fraud. They amount to the same thing.
"It's one operation that you carried out, which was to steal mail that you were responsible for delivering and using the contents which you recovered, which were bank cards and pin numbers, to obtain money.
"The amount involved losing the total of £7,047.64, that would have gone on had the authority not been warned and started investigating things.
"I have heard the explanation which has been given that involved an addiction to drugs.
"As you appreciate this is a very serious matter. It involved breach of trust on people relying on the Royal Mail delivering items safely to their door and breach of trust regarding your employers."
Recorder Dobbin sentenced Hair to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
He also ordered him to take part in a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days and carry out 150 hours' unpaid work.
Hair will also have to pay £500 towards costs of the prosecution.