A COUNCIL worker pilfered nearly £138,000 from authority funds.

Thomas Hayes stole the cash from Mid Sussex District Council and spent it on “manic buying” consumer goods which he kept in his garage.

The 44-year-old from Lancing lied to suspicious colleagues and refused to show them a bank statement about funds.

But when they requested the statements, they found Hayes had switched funds from his job as the democratic services manager into his own personal accounts.

At Lewes Crown Court Hayes admitted four counts of fraud between 2016 and 2019.

He was spared a prison spell by Judge Martin Huseyin, who instead ordered him to complete unpaid work.

Prosecutor Eleanor Scott-Davies told the hearing that Hayes had worked for the council between 2013 and 2019 and had been a signatory on a holding account containing money from people standing for election.

The total amount stolen was £137,729, the court heard.

Police will be seeking to claw some or all of the money back through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Ms Scott-Davies said Hayes’ abuse of trust had had a “considerable detrimental impact”.

Mid Sussex District Council is based in Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

Defence barrister Josh Normanton said the defendant’s offending was related to his struggles with cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder.

He said: “It is linked to the aspect of the condition where you have extreme highs and extreme lows.

“We have a defendant who has taken a lot of money but has not lived a life of opulence or extreme wealth.

“He is beyond sorry for what he has done.

“He accepts that he has let down his colleagues, he has let down the public at large and he has let down his family, particularly his wife.”

Sentencing Hayes, Judge Martin Huseyin said: “You spent a great deal of this money on manic buying and obsessive buying of consumer items many of which you did not in the true sense of the word consume.”

He said it was “odd and obsessive” behaviour but not offending that was marked by greed or a desire for a life of luxury.

Hayes, of Orient Road, Lancing, was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.

He must complete 180 hours of unpaid work in the community and attend rehabilitation days.