Court hears worker helped steal bricks worth £18,000 from Hebburn construction site
The worker claimed he had nothing to do with the theft but later said he had been paid to "turn a blind eye".
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A worker who helped steal bricks worth £18,000 from the construction site he was supposed to be looking after has kept his freedom.
Michael Russett was employed by an external contractor as a groundworker at the Barratt homes development in Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, when thieves turned up with a low-loading articulated lorry and helped themselves over the course of a morning in January 2020.
The 49-year-old claimed he had nothing to do with the theft but later said he had been paid to "turn a blind eye".
However, a judge has now ruled he had a leading role in organising what happened and that the bricks were "stolen to order".
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At his sentence hearing today, Judge Penny Moreland told him: "I reject the account and the jury rejected the account you gave, that it had nothing to do with you.
"I also reject the account you have now given to the probation service, that you had been paid £200 to turn a blind eye.
"I think, once again, you were lying to minimise your culpability. I am satisfied that you took a significant, indeed leading role in organising that theft, with others.
"You were on site that morning, you facilitated that theft.
"There had been significant planning because a low-loader and van were required, men were required to load the bricks that were stolen.
"You were site manager, it was a responsible position. You bore a high degree of responsibility to your employer, which you betrayed."
The judge added: "These were stolen to order, they were not stolen on the off-chance you could find a buyer, there was a buyer in place ready to take possession of them."
Judge Moreland sentenced Russett to 18 months, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements and 200 hours unpaid work.
The judge told him: "You strike me as someone who thinks the rules don't apply to you."
The court heard Russett has suffered tragedy in his life and has health problems.
He now has employment doing block paving and his boss gave him a reference which said: "He is a genuine guy who I can leave to run projects and complete work unsupervised."