A store manager who stole from two bakers' shops in York has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Nathan Anthony Andrew Church, 27, systematically paid takings from two Cooplands shops in York into his own bank account and falsified the shops’ financial records to hide his activities, said Brooke Morrison, prosecuting.

In six months, he stole £8,442 of the bakery chain’s money when managing its Low Ousegate and Acomb shops.

When the bakery chain called in police, officers discovered that Church had been sacked from Thomas the Bakers for stealing just over £8,000 from it.

York Crown Court heard Church is currently working as a store manager for a third major bakery chain.

Church, of Langholme Drive, Acomb, pleaded guilty to theft by an employee when working at Cooplands. Ms Morrison said although police had taken a statement on behalf of Thomas the Bakers, that company did not want to press charges.

“This is appalling criminal conduct in breach of the trust that was placed in you by your employer,” said Recorder Paul Reid. “There is no doubt whatsoever a sentence of imprisonment is the only sentence that can possibly be justified.”

However, he could suspend it because it was two years since the Cooplands theft and for other reasons.

He passed an eight-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months on condition Church does 35 days’ rehabilitative activities, 200 hours’ unpaid work and does not commit any more offences.

Defence barrister Lily Wildman said Church had run up large debts, which at the time of the court hearing stood at £11,000.

“This is something that spiralled out of control,” she said. “The defendant was approximately 18 when the debts started to build up. He found himself in somewhat of a black hole. That is something he has very much tried to get himself out of.”

Ms Morrison said Church was store manager of the two Cooplands shops in succession between January 2021 and July 2021.

He was responsible for ensuring each day’s takings were banked for the company. After he left, his successor noticed discrepancies in the shop records and alerted the area manager.

Church claimed he had been mugged when on the way to the bank with the takings. But the company’s investigation revealed money had been going missing from both stores for months.

Ms Wildman said since the thefts Church had entered an individual voluntary arrangement to pay off his debts and was making regular payments.

The judge did not make Church pay compensation to Cooplands. He warned Church that Cooplands could sue him for the money in the civil courts.

“If they want to take proceedings against you, you will have no answer to it,” the judge said.

Judges in criminal courts are restricted in the amount they can order in compensation depending on the defendant’s finances. Civil courts are not restricted in the same way.