WORKERS betrayed the trust of their employer by selling stolen company gear on eBay.

One of the defendants asked a probation officer why he was in court, leading the judge to describe the comment as 'brainless'.

Darren Howes, aged 39, of Brookside Road, Worcester and Craig Wright, aged 26, of Malvern, both admitted handling goods stolen from their place of work, Permadoor in Upton.

Stuart Clarkson, prosecuting, said a stock take in December 2015 revealed equipment was missing including 169 door closers worth £120 each (more than £20,000 in total).

The company managers looked on eBay after a tip-off from a supervisor, finding three active accounts where items from the company had been sold. Relevant email addresses were identified as part of the investigation and both men were interviewed by police.

Howes, an IT programmer, had worked for Permadoor between 1998 and 2016, initially denying any wrongdoing.

Wright, who worked as a team leader for Permadoor, admitted selling the items on eBay but said he had bought them from a car boot sale and had never been involved in any theft or handling.

Wright later admitted theft on the basis he stole one box containing five door closers worth £600 and handling 20 boxes worth £2,400.

Howes accepted accepted handling three door closers worth £360, a breathing apparatus suit (£200) and two drills, the total cost coming to just under £1,000.

Giles Nelson, for Howes, said his client received £175 for the items sold and asked the judge to follow the probation service recommendation that his client be given a community order.

Richard Hull, for Wright, acknowledged it was a breach of a high degree of trust and responsibility.

He said: "This is, in effect, removing goods from a factory."

Mr Hull asked the judge to give Wright credit for his admissions and co-operation.

Judge Jim Tindal said of Howes: "You seem to be a bit puzzled as to what you've done wrong. What you've done wrong is break the law.

"What you did wrong is be dishonest and divert material which belonged to your employers to your colleague Mr Wright who then sold it."

The judge said Howes's question to a probation officer about 'why he was here' was 'a brainless comment'.

Judge Tindal said Howes had had told a probation officer he would rather not be placed on a curfew as he had to go 'on holiday' and would rather not not be given unpaid work because he had 'a lot of things on'.

The judge said: "It beggars belief you could be so short-sighted and foolish. The position is you could be sent to prison today."

The judge said Wright had shown a slightly more mature and sensible approach.

Both men were given 12 month community orders to include 200 hours of unpaid work.

Howes must pay £1,000 compensation and £100 towards costs.

Wright must pay £3,000 compensation and £100 towards costs.