A BURY Council mechanic took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to steal trailers, worth £8,000.

With only a few people around at the council’s transport depot in April last year, 54-year-old Chris Lock helped himself to two trailers, telling an unwitting buyer that the authority was selling them off.

But Lock was caught after a colleague became suspicious and decided to check the tracker on Lock’s truck.

After he was arrested Lock, of Strawberry Close, Birchwood, Warrington, resigned and, at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, was given a community sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of theft by an employee.

Claire Brocklebank, prosecuting, told Recorder Kate Cornell how Lock’s job was to attend breakdowns, repair vehicles and fit trackers.

On April 9 last year Lock told colleague Tony Ging that he was taking a truck and trailer to collect materials from an old yard.

“But Mr Ging knew there was nothing much at the yard which would have required a trailer,” said Miss Brocklebank.

“Mr Ging was suspicious and decided to check the tracker of the truck to try and find it, but by the time he got there the vehicle was no longer present.”

He later looked in the truck and found the tracker had been turned off and turned back on again just before Lock arrived back at the depot without the trailer.

Mr Ging reported his suspicions to his bosses and enquiries revealed Lock had also stolen another trailer two days earlier.

Lock had taken the trailers to Glyn Jaras, who paid £200 each for them after he was told that the council was selling off old equipment.

Mr Jaras later listed the trailers on eBay for £999 each.

When he was arrested and still in a police car Lock messaged Mr Jaras telling him to take the listings down.

“He later admitted to him that the trailers were stolen and he had taken the opportunity to steal them because less people had been at work due to the current pandemic,” said Miss Brocklebank.

Mr Jaras arranged for the trailers to be returned to the council.

The court heard that Lock has previous convictions for dishonesty in the 1990s and, at the time of the trailer thefts, was subject to a community sentence for assault.

Miss Brocklebank said the trailer thefts have had an impact on Lock’s colleagues and procedures at the depot have now been tightened.

But a statement on behalf of Bury Council said: “The morale of staff has significantly declined as, due to these measures being put in place it feels, as a whole, that nobody can really be trusted.

“Chris’ actions have left a negative legacy on general morale within the workplace and this may take some time to recover.”

Dan Gaskell, defending, said that Lock was suffering with health problems, including an injury to his foot following a cycling accident, has little sight in one eye and struggles with alcohol addiction and mental health problems.

Handing Lock a six-month community sentence, Recorder Cornell told him he had tried to cover his tracks after the theft.

She added: “You have accepted responsibility, but in a somewhat limited way, making efforts to minimise your culpability and placing blame on another person who you claim encouraged or suggested you commit these offences. That does not impress me.

“However, you have expressed regret for these offences and recognised that you breached the trust of your employers and colleagues, many of whom were also friends.”

As part of his community sentence Lock was electronically tagged and will be subject to a 7pm to 7am curfew for eight weeks. He must also undertake treatment for alcohol addiction, participate in 10 days of rehabilitation activities and pay Mr Jaras £400 in compensation.