Northern Ireland

Suspended sentences for Royal Mail DVD thieves

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Two Royal Mail workers who stole undelivered DVDs have each received suspended six-month prison sentences.

Stephen Hastings, 43, and Sean Mateer, 50, were also sacked from their sorting office jobs after a covert operation uncovered their activities.

Hastings, of Glennor Crescent West, Carryduff, was convicted of three counts of theft.

Mateer, from Cluain Mor Gardens, Belfast, was found guilty of a single charge.

CCTV cameras at the Royal Mail depot in Tomb Street, Belfast detected them rummaging through undeliverable or damaged parcels in July 2007.

'Staff culture'

A lawyer for Mateer had argued that his client was only borrowing DVDs to watch before they were destroyed.

The lawyer claimed this was "part of a culture among staff dealing with undeliverable items".

Management either did not know about it or else "turned a Nelsonian blind eye" to the practice, he said.

Mateer and Hastings had worked for Royal Mail for 15 and 19 years respectively, but have since been dismissed.

Passing sentence, Deputy District Judge Joe Rice told them: "These offences constitute a serious breach of trust, therefore you must take the consequences of your actions."

However, Mr Rice also acknowledged both defendants had lost their jobs.

As well as suspending the prison terms for two years, the judge fined Hastings a total of £900 and Mateer £500