A MAN has been fined after admitting stealing 100 charity bags belonging to the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAA).

Wayne Birbeck was working as a charity collector when he was stopped by police who spotted him picking up the bags in Redcar last December.

The 33-year-old, of Easington Lane, Houghton-le-Spring, was employed by Wear on Earth to collect charity bags on behalf of the RNLI and Kidney Research but decided to "naively" pick up the GNAA bags as well.

Prosecutor Lynne Dalton told East Langbaurgh Magistrates Court that the defendant was found with £450 worth of second-hand clothes in the rear of his Transit van.

She said: "He saw the charity bags and took them, he intended to take them to the depot and weigh them in."

In mitigation, Robin Ford said Birbeck had fallen on hard times after losing his job as a gas fitter and had only been working for the charity for two weeks when the offence occurred.

"He accepted at the time that he didn't turn his mind to the fact he was taking it from another charity because he thought he was taking it to a charity and naively he didnt think about it," he said.

"What he did on this occasion is take from the wrong charity. There was no loss to anyone, it wasn't pre-planned and he thought he was doing the right thing."

He added that all the bags were returned to the GNAA and Birbeck had never been paid for the two weeks work he carried out for Wear on Earth.

Chairman of the bench, Paul Cegla fined Birbeck £90 and ordered him to pay £150 in court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

He said: "The aggravating factor was that it was charity money that was involved, however, you were employed in charity bag collection and you were in the process if returning to a charity warehouse - it was a reckless act."

A charge of theft against a co-defendant was discontinued.