A MAN who hired and then stole £11,000 worth of specialist industrial tools to clear his drug debt using the names of former colleagues has avoided being jailed.

Simon Calvert was unable to fund his cocaine habit after he was sacked in April by Peart Access Ramps in Hartlepool, and turned to crime after receiving threats from his dealer, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The 27-year-old pretended to still work for the company when he hired the equipment from Travis Perkins depots in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough before handing over the goods to the men who he owed money.

Paul Reid, prosecuting, said the cocaine addict used four different names on eight separate occasions to sign for the equipment

He said the defendant had been identified by the managing director of the ramp business after suspicions were raised and he was able to identify his former employee on CCTV footage.

Calvert made full admissions when he was arrested, he added.

“He was sacked on April 4 and was annoyed by this as he had been given no notice,” he said. “He was in considerable debt and threats were being made against him and his family and he thought these threats would be carried out.”

Calvert, of Fox Covert, Dalton Piercy, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by false representation.

In mitigation, John Nixon, told the court that the defendant turned to crime in an effort to appease his drug dealer who was demanding money to cover his debt.

“He is a man who has always worked, who has never been unemployed,” he said. “Unfortunately, he is not the first person to fall into this trap – he became dependant on cocaine and when he was working, he was able to pay for what he used.

“Unfortunately, he acquired a drug debt but after he lost his job, he was unable to keep up the repayments.”

Mr Nixon said his client was scared that the dealer would carry out his threat and 'burn down his parents property' if he didn't pay up.

He added: "He was exceptionally vulnerable and very frightened and unfortunately took the decision to yield to those who demanded the money."

Judge Deborah Sherwin sentenced Calvert to an 18-month community order and ordered him to take part in 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

She said: “You used the account of you past employer to hire goods from Travis Perkins and that was handed over to the people who you owed money to.

"The one particular aggravating feature of this was you gave the names of people who worked for the company to Travis Perkins and that ran the risk of those coming under suspicion."