A CALL centre worker stole the details of a customer after having his contract ended and plundered thousands of pounds from his credit card account.

Kevin Robertson took a contacts book with him when he was asked to clear his desk for poor time-keeping at the Barclaycard office in Stockton, a court heard.

He later rang the call centre, pretended to be a customer by using confidential details he took days earlier, and transferred £11,275 to his own bank account.

Robertson went on a spending spree with his new-found wealth, making withdrawals almost immediately, Christine Egerton, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court.

When he was arrested, he blamed a former colleague for the thefts, but said he allowed the culprit to use his bank account to hide what he was doing from his girlfriend.

Police had to interview the other worker as part of their investigation, said Ms Egerton, but it soon became clear that Robertson's story was entirely made up.

Robertson, of Atherstone Way, Darlington, admitted two charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception in July 2004, and a bail offence from last year.

Ms Egerton could not explain why the case took so long to reach court, but Judge Peter Bowers used the delay as an excuse for not locking up Robertson.

He told the 31-year-old: "Quite frankly, I dont think you deserve a suspended sentence, and certainly if this offence had been in the last couple of years, I would not have suspended it.

"But is seems that there is an extraordinary delay here which would make giving an immediate sentence unreasonable. You have got a chance, but not because I think you deserve one."

Father-of-one Robertson received a total of 12 months - including three months for failing to turn up at court last December - which was suspended for two years.

The judge told him: "You know that in the position you were, honesty and trustworthiness are the hallmarks of any employee dealing with other peoples money. You abused that trust quite badly."

Robin Turton, mitigating, earlier told the court that Robertson was "at rock bottom" at the time of the offences because his relationship had failed and he was drinking too much.

"There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then," Mr Turton said. "He had a pretty awful childhood and has vowed to do the best he can for his own child.

"Despite the break-up with the mother, he has stayed on good terms, but his stupidity has placed in jeopardy the relationship with his son he has nurtured over a considerable period of time."