A SACKED salesman has walked free from court despite drunkenly ordering nearly £300,000-worth of cars on his former bosses’ account.

Paul Donkin logged into a vehicle trader’s auction website using his ex-bosses’ details and bought 24 vehicles, worth up to £20,000 each.

But today (Tuesday, August 19) the 42-year-old walked free from Newcastle Crown Court after Judge Robert Adams sentenced him to a 12-month community order with supervision.

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The court heard Donkin had no previous convictions, had always worked hard, regretted his actions and had apologised to his former boss.

Donkin’s life had fallen apart over the last 18 months, his barrister Shaun Routledge said, leading to the breakdown of his eight-year marriage and alcohol misuse.

But he had been offered a new job, Mr Routledge continued, and he asked to court to give him an opportunity to rebuild his life.

Sentencing, Judge Adams told Donkin he had intended to cause his old employer enormous problems and he could have caused ‘chaos’.

But he added it was understandable he had been in a ‘bad way’ last year, given his ‘difficult times’.

Donkin worked for Durham Hire and Sales, in Langley Moor, near Durham, until August 23 last year, when his temporary contract was ended, prosecutor Christopher Rose told the court.

While ‘extremely drunk’ on August 31, he logged onto the British Car Auctions (BCA) website from his home computer at Mount Pleasant, near Washington, Wearside, and bought 21 vehicles in less than 15 minutes.

A day later, he did the same – that time buying three vehicles, taking the total value of the fraud to £294,850.

BCA spotted the unusual activity and contacted Durham Hire and Sales, which confirmed it was not authorised and the purchases were cancelled.

Donkin was easily traced through his computer and admitted the crimes to the police in interview.

He said he was owed wages, although unbeknown to him this money had been paid on September 1.

Mr Routledge said there was never any prospect of his ex-employer losing any money.

“He did a stupid thing over the course of 24 hours,” he said.

Donkin pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and two of misusing a computer. He was ordered to pay £200 court costs and a £60 victim surcharge.