A WORKER at a meat wholesaler who stole thousands of pounds worth of stock has been given his last chance to avoid prison.

George Hillyer was in court for sentencing after breaching a suspended sentence for a third time.

He was convicted of stealing £175,000 worth of meat from RP Meats in Upper Hollingdean Road, Brighton, to fund his cocaine addiction.

The firm had noticed that while sales were going up, profits were down, and began to suspect something was wrong.

After installing CCTV, they found Hillyer weighing up £4,000 worth of cuts to sell on to suppliers.

He admitted carrying out the thefts for more than a year.

Hillyer was given a two-year suspended prison sentence with 260 hours of unpaid work and ten rehabilitation sessions by Recorder Bruce Houlder QC in July last year.

The judge was told that Hillyer was eventually caught on camera weighing the huge pallets of meat.

When confronted by his bosses, and questioned by police after his arrest, he confessed to stealing for the best part of a year, from about September 2016 to July 2017.

He later pleaded guilty to theft by an employee but lied about the amount stolen – first suggesting it was to the value of about £30,000.

This figure “gradually escalated” over time and eventually he conceded stealing

more than five times his initial claim.

His sentencing was delayed for months while the value was disputed in a series of court hearings.

Hillyer also claimed he had an accomplice but later said this was untrue.

No one else was arrested over the theft and there is no suggestion anyone else was complicit in the scheme.

Recorder Houlder said he put the reputations of the unsuspecting businesses in his supply chain on the line and exposed his family to abuse.

He added: “You knew CCTV had been installed but you were not deflected.

“Your greed clearly got the better of you.

“You were clearly selling goods to order.”

Hillyer, 25, formerly of Ropetackle, Shoreham, admitted breaching the suspended sentence order in September and in January, when Judge David Rennie added a further 15 rehabilitation sessions.

Then in April this year Hillyer again failed to appear for community service – he had been repairing a dry stone wall in Midhurst.

At Hove Crown Court this week Hillyer told Judge Rennie he had family problems with his former partner and his four-year-old daughter.

He was hoping to attend a job interview for a new

salesman role at a market in London.

Judge Rennie agreed Hillyer had made progress, attending more than 100 hours of unpaid work so far.

The judge gave him a “last chance” and added an extra five hours of unpaid work to the total.

“If you mess up again, you are sending yourself to prison,” the judge said.