An off-license cashier has been given a suspended jail sentence for stealing £10,000 worth of alcohol, scratchcards and betting vouchers from a shop in Exmouth.

Stephen Loveridge was a trusted employee and keyholder at the Bargain Booze store but was caught because his boss noticed discrepancies in the accounts.

He was caught on CCTV as he let himself back into the shop when it was closed and either stole stock or used its Paypoint facility to pay his gambling bills.

He was spared an immediate jail sentence after a Judge at Exeter Crown Court was told that he has stayed out of trouble in the three years the case has come to court and is working hard as a carpenter to support his five children.

He has also overcome a drug habit and a gambling addiction that led him to commit the thefts in the first place.

Loveridge, aged 30, of Kingston Road, Exmouth, admitted theft and was jailed for 16 weeks, suspended for a year and ordered to do 50 hours of unpaid work by Judge Anna Richardson.

She told him: “You were trusted to run the shop on your own and lock up. You were challenged about discrepancies and made full admissions to the police.

“You have no previous convictions and strong personal mitigation. You have addressed your behaviour and stopped gambling and taking drugs. You have obtained further employment and there has been no further offending in three years.”

Mr Thomas Faulkner, prosecuting, said the owner of the shop noticed discrepancies in 2019 and sacked Loveridge in July 2020 after seeing him going back into the Rolle Street shop after hours.

Loveridge had previously denied stealing from the shop but admitted doing so to police after they were called in. The owner estimated his losses at £40,000 but police were only able to attribute £10,000 thefts to Loveridge.

Miss Hollie Gilbery, defending, said Loveridge was in financial difficulties at the time because he had moved to Devon with his family and a plan to live at his mother’s house had fallen through, meaning they had to find their own home.

She said he has turned his life around in the three years since the thefts, staying out of trouble and finding work. He is truly sorry for his behaviour and has been assessed as suitable for unpaid community work by probation.