A GAMBLING addict who stole thousands of pounds from a fast food restaurant stood by while two fellow employees were dismissed under a cloud of suspicion, a court was told.

Thomas Charles Chorlton, aged 26, Brymers Avenue, Portland, received a suspended prison sentence after he admitted the theft of nearly £12,000 from his place of work – McDonald’s in Weymouth’s Jubilee Retail Park.

He pleaded guilty to one charge of theft and asked for four other similar offences to be taken into consideration as he was sentenced at Dorchester Crown Court.

Carolyn Branford-Wood, prosecuting, told the court that Chorlton had been a McDonald’s employee for four years and had worked his way up to the position of shift manager.

She said Chorlton asked to speak to his manager John Owen on January 18 this year after a cash collection company had found money had gone missing from the store’s safe.

In an internal interview he admitted stealing the three missing cash bags, which contained just under £5,000.

Chorlton also admitted stealing from the safe on earlier occasions, when missing money had led to the dismissal of two other staff members.

Miss Branford-Wood said: “He admitted responsibility for removing those cash bags during the shifts of these employees.”

She added that Chorlton had even been present at one of the employee’s investigatory interviews before the pair were dismissed for negligence.

Miss Branford-Wood said the total loss to McDonald’s from Chorlton’s thefts between July 2009 and January this year was over £11,800.

After he confessed to his employers, Chorlton was interviewed by police and told them he had taken the money to fund his gambling addiction.

He also told how he kept quiet as the two other employees were dismissed.

He told police: “I sat by as a witness and watched the whole thing unfold without coming forward.”

Chorlton told officers he had been gambling from as young as eight years old, starting on fruit machines, and the problem had escalated when he moved to Weymouth around five years ago.

Nigel Mitchell, mitigating, said Chorlton had run up debts of £6,000 as his addiction snowballed entirely out of control.

He said his client was now attending Gamblers Anonymous and, having apologised to his two former colleagues, was back on speaking terms with both of them.

Judge Roger Jarvis imposed a prison sentence of 28 weeks, suspended for 12 months, with a requirement that Chorlton carry out 240 hours of unpaid work in the community.

He told Chorlton: “It is plainly a very serious breach of trust made the worse, in my judgement, as innocent people have suffered as a consequence of what you have done.”

The judge added: “You have come very close to going into custody today.”

A spokesman for McDonald’s said the company did not wish to comment on the sentencing.