A COUNCIL gardener who helped himself to more than £50,000-worth of diesel at his employer’s expense, is now to pay the price.

Gavin Wood is faced with selling or re-mortgaging his home to meet a £31,727 confiscation order to be paid as compensation to his former employer, Durham County Council.

Durham Crown Court was told he used a van in his job with the council and was trusted to fill it with fuel to visit various work sites.

He also filled canisters to help power grass cutters and other machinery in the course of the job.

But, the court heard it was noted his apparent diesel consumption was, “way in excess” of any of his colleagues.

Inquiries revealed he often supposedly filled up on weekends, when not working, and several times during the week when a single filling should have proved sufficient. for his needs.

Mr West said over a single calendar year he used £52,793-worth of diesel.

When challenged he admitted taking the diesel, although he was unaware how much he had taken.

The court heard he sold the excess diesel, but not for the full amount of its value.

Wood, 39, of Dene Crescent, Shotton Colliery, who is of previous good character, admitted theft and was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, at the court, in June.

He was also ordered to perform 140 hours’ unpaid work and attend ten rehabilitation activity days with the Probation Service.

More than four months since being sentenced he returned to court for a proceeds of crime confiscation hearing.

Ian West, for the Crown, said the benefit from his crimes was put at £55,692, with an available amount for confiscation of £31,727, which he added would come from either the sale or re-mortgage of his home to raise the money.

Richard Herrmann, for Wood, said he had no objection.

Judge Ray Singh, therefore, made a confiscation order of £31,727, to be paid by way of compensation to the county council.

Wood has three months to pay or risk up to a year in prison, in default.

Judge Singh also reminded Wood, even if that figure is paid, there would remain a shortfall of almost £24,000 on the benefit figure, but which he would have to pay if he comes into money in the future.

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